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The importance of the pension question 9 

Plan of treatment 10 

Definitions 10 



Colonial pension laws 12 

First national pension law 14 

Washington's views with regard to pensions 15 

First provision for widows and orphans 16 

Half pay for life promised to Revolutionary officers 17 

Opposition to half pay in the States 18 

Discontent in the army 18 

Commutation of the half pay 19 

Violent agitation against commutation 20 

Settlement of the half pay claims 21 

Further invalid pension legislation 22 

Purpose of pension legislation prior to 1789 23 



Centralization of pension administration 25 

Pressure of applicants for pensions 26 

Invalid pension law of March 23, 1 792 26 

Circuit Courts of United States to examine applicants 27 

Conflict between United States judges and Congress 27 

Act of February 28, 1 793 29 

Important invalid pension act of April 10, 1806 31 

Increase act of April 24, 1816 33 

Limited service pension act of March 18, 1818 33 




Arguments of the opposition to this law 34 

Abuses of the act of 1818 37 

Remedial legislation of May I, 1820 38 

Operation of the acts of 1818 and 1820 39 

Act of 1828, granting full pay for life 40 

Hayne's speech on the pension system 41 

Pension expenditures and a protective tariff 42 

Alleged discrimination against the South 43 

Service pension act of June 7, 1832 44 

Frauds under the act of 1832 45 

Distribution of pension expenditures up to 1834 48 

Act of July 4, 1836, providing for widows 49 

Final provisions for Revolutionary widows 49 

Results of Revolutionary pension legislation 51 



1. Provisions for the Regular Army and Volunteers 

2. Navy and Privateer Pension Funds 

Establishment of the navy pension fund 55 

History and statistics of the fund 56 

Renewal of the fund during the Civil War 57 

Present condition of the navy pension fund 59 

Establishment and history of the privateer pension fund 60 

3. War of 1812 Pensions 

Service pension act of February 14, 1871 6l 

More liberal act of March 9, 1878 62 

Results of War of 1812 pension acts 64 

4. Indian War Pensions 

Service pension act of July 27, 1892 64 

5. Mexican War Pensions 

Limited service pension act of January 29, 1887 66 

Results of the Mexican War pension acts 68 



Pension system at the beginning of the war 70 

Policy toward disloyal pensioners 71 

Urgent need of additional legislation 72 

Fundamental invalid pension act of July 14, 1862 73 

Special rating by law for specific disabilities 76 

Increase acts of 1866 , . , ,..,..., . . , ,..,,.,., , 78 



Act of July 27, 1868 80 

The average pension in 1871 84 

Codification of the pension laws 85 

Decrease in pension expenditures 86 



Early provisions regarding arrears 88 

Increased activity of pension attorneys = 90 

The Arrears Act in Congress 91 

Agitation and petitions for its passage 94 

Its provisions 95 

Stimulus afforded to fraudulent claims 96 

Recognition of enormous cost of the act 98 

Amendment and limitation of March 3, 1879 99 

Extraordinary number of claims presented loo 

Operation of the Arrears Act 102 

Increase act of March 19, 1886 105 

Partial repeal of limitation on arrears 105 

Harmful operation of proviso of June 7, 1888 106 



President Cleveland's message of 1886 108 

His veto of the Dependent Pension Bill 109 

Continued agitation for service pensions 112 

Passage of the act of June 27, 1890 1 14 

Provisions of that law 114 

Statistics of its operation 115 

The act of 1890 a bad law 117 

Tabular statements of its cost and of claims filed 118 

Pensions granted to army nurses 119 

A pension not a vested legal right 119 

Minimum invalid rate of six dollars per month 119 

Arrears under the act of June 27, 1890 120 

Act of March 3, 1899 120 

Existing laws apply to the War with Spain 121 

Special Pension Legislation 

Number of special acts passed 122 

Methods of passage 122 

President Cleveland's vetoes 123 

Possible improvement in methods * , . . . . 123 

viii TABLE OF CONTENTS [ 22 6 



1. The Trend of Pension Legislation 

Sketch of the development of our pension system 1 25 

2. Our Present System of Laws 

Its twofold character 126 

3. Causes and Evils of Unwise Legislation 

Surplus in the Treasury 127 

Activity of attorneys and claim agents 128 

Organization and political activity of veterans 128 

Evil results of improper laws 129 

4. A Proper System of Laws 

Service pension laws not desirable 130 

An invalid pension system accords with good public policy 131 

Pensions for widows and dependent relatives 131 

Reforms in administration needed 132 



THE maintenance of the military pension system of the 
United States has cost since the close of the Civil War 
about two and a [half billions of dollars. At the present 
time, nearly one million names are borne upon the national 
pension rolls, or, approximately, one in seventy-five of the 
population of the country. The annual expenditure for 
pensions is, roughly speaking, one hundred and forty mil- 
lion dollars, an amount about equal to our total annual 
receipts from internal revenue under conditions such as pre- 
vailed from 1894 to 1897. These statements suffice to indi- 
cate the importance of what is commonly known as the 
" pension question," and to make it clear that the subject of 
pension legislation and administration is worthy of careful 
study. The field is now an open one in which scarcely any 
serious work has been done. 

This monograph aims to occupy part of the open field by 
giving a systematic account of national military pension leg- 
islation in the United States from 1776 to the present time. 
The main features of the most important laws are given, to- 
gether with the circumstances attending their passage and 
the results of their operation. While any adequate treat- 
ment of the administration of the pension laws under pres- 
ent complex conditions would require an independent mono- 
graph, legislation and administration are so intimately 
connected that the latter necessarily receives considerable 

After a review of pension legislation prior to the inaugu- 
227] 9 


ration of the Federal Government in 1789, the writer's plan 
contemplates a topical treatment of laws. The enactments 
connected with each important war are grouped together, 
and an attempt is made to show the development of legisla- 
tion and the introduction of new principles. Statistical in- 
formation with regard to the admission of claims and ex- 
penditures under the various laws is compiled from the 
Government reports. It may be added that this essay does 
\ not include a consideration of retirement pensions, civil pen- 
sions or of State pension laws. An investigation of the lat- 
ter topic would be of interest as showing the provision made 
by some of the Southern States for the ex-soldiers of the 
Confederate army. 

A military pension may be defined as a regular allowance 
made by a government to one who has been in its military 
service, or to his widow or dependent relatives. Since a 
state has an absolute right to require the services of its citi- 
zens in time of war, the payment of a pension is commonly 
4 regarded not as the discharge of a debt due the ex-soldier, 
but as a gratuity. Pensions for soldiers may be divided into 
\ invalid or disability pensions and service pensions. An in- 
valid or disability pension is one granted to a soldier on ac- 
count of wounds or injuries received or disease contracted in 
the military service. A service pension is granted to one 
who has been in the military service for a specified length of 
time, without regard to the question whether or not he has 
incurred injury or disability in that service. 

Service pensions maybe divided \\\\.Q pure service pensions 
and limited service pensions. The former are granted for a 
specified length of military service without regard to any 
other consideration. Limited service pension laws require a 
specified length of service and also some other qualification 
or qualifications, such as indigence, inability to perform 
manual labor, inability to earn a support, disability in some 


degree incurred since the termination of the war, or the 
attainment of a certain age. 

Pensions to widows are sometimes conditioned on the date 
of marriage, whether before, during or after the soldier's ser- 
vice, or before or after a specified date. Widows generally 
forfeit their pensions by a re-marriage. Another matter fre- 
quently considered in the pensioning of widows and depend- 
ent relatives is the cause of the soldier's death, whether in 
battle, in service, or, after discharge, as the result of injuries 
received or disease contracted in service. The more liberal 
laws grant pensions to widows and dependent relatives on 
mere proof of death, without regard to the cause. 

Before passing to the consideration of legislation, the 
writer wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to Professor 
J. W. Jenks, of Cornell University, at whose suggestion he 
undertook this study, and to Professors H. R. Seager, of the 
University of Pennsylvania, and F. J. Goodnow, of Columbia 
University, for encouragement and advice during the progress 
of the work. The Pension Bureau has also kindly responded 
to requests for its official publications. 

The pension laws abound with technicalities which can be 
of but little interest to the general reader. In so far as pos- 
sible, an effort has been made to eliminate these confusing 
details where they are not necessary to the purpose of the 
essay, which is the presentation in a broad, systematic and 
intelligible way of the development in legisjation of our 
present pension system. 



THE inauguration of a military pension system by the 
government of the United States followed closely upon the 
Declaration of Independence, the first national pension law 
bearing date of August 26, 1/76. Such a system was in 
full accord with over a century of colonial legislation and 
practice. Early in their history, many of the English colo- 
nies in America had provided for the relief and maintenance 
of wounded and maimed soldiers. By way of introduction 
^to national pension legislation, some notice of early colonial 
laws is instructive. 

In 1636 the Pilgrims at Plymouth enacted in their Court 
\ that any man who should be sent forth as a soldier and re- 
turn maimed should be maintained competently by the col- 
ony during his life. 1 This was probably the first pension 
law passed in America. In 1676 and the years immediately 
thereafter, a standing committee of the General Court of 
Massachusetts Bay held regular meetings in " Boston toune 
house " to hear the applications of wounded soldiers for re- 
lief. 2 After the union of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth 
under the charter of 1691, the province continued to make 
provisions for the relief of disabled soldiers out of the pub- 
lic treasury. 3 

As early as 1644, the Virginia Assembly passed a disabil- 

1 Plymouth Colony Records, xi, Laws, 106. 

2 Records oj Colony of Massachusetts Bay, v, 80, 227. 
8 Acts and Resolves of Province of Mass. Bay, \, 135. 

12 [230 

231] PRIOR TO 1789 13 

ity pension law, and later provided for the relief of the indi- ^X 
gent families of the colony's soldiers who should be slain. 1 
We find similar acts among the colonial statutes of Mary- 
land 2 and New York 3 during the latter part of the seven- 
teenth century. The Maryland militia law of November, 
1678, promised yearly pensions not only to soldiers who 
should be disabled, but also to the widows and orphan chil- 
daen of those who should lose their lives in the military ser- 
vice. "Competent" pensions were to be yearly rated and 
allowed out of the public levy by the General Assembly. 
Petitioners for pensions were required to show by certificates 
from the commissioners of the respective county courts that 
they were proper objects of charity. 

In 1718 Rhode Island enacted a remarkably comprehen- ^ 
sive pension law. 4 It provided that every officer, soldier or 
sailor, employed in the colony's service, who should be dis- 
abled by loss of limb or otherwise from getting a livelihood 
for himself and family or other dependent relatives, should 
have his wounds carefully looked after and healed at the 
colony's charge, and should have an annual pension allowed 
him out of the general treasury, sufficient for the mainte- 
nance of himself and family, or other dependent relatives. 
The law further provided that if any person, who had the 
charge of maintaining a wife, children, parents or other rela- 
tives, should be slain in the colony's military service, these 
relatives should be maintained, while unable to provide for 
themselves, by such yearly pension from the treasury of the 
colony as the General Assembly might deem sufficient. 
The town councils were charged with the care and oversight 
of those persons entitled to pensions who resided in their 

1 Hening's Statutes at Large, i, 287; ii, 331, 347, 440. 

1 Archives of Md. t Proceedings of Assembly, 1637-8-1664, 408, 436, and also, 
Ibid., 1678-1683, 58. 

1 Colonial Laws of N. F., i, 234. * Acts and Laws of R. /., 74. 


respective towns. Each council was, from time to time, to 
receive the pensions, and therewith to supply the benefi- 
ciaries as they should stand in need. 

This notice of early colonial laws makes it clear that pen- 
sion provisions for disabled soldiers are of almost as long 
standing in this country as English settlement. The simple 
provision made by the Pilgrims in 1636 is as truly a disabil- 
ity pension act as the more elaborate laws of later times. 
Aiming to secure enlistments in military expeditions against 
the Indians, the colonies promised to care for those who 
should be disabled and be left without means of obtaining a 
livelihood, and also to aid the indigent families of those who 
should fall in the conflict. So pension provisions came to 
be commonly included in acts organizing the militia or 
levying soldiers for some particular military enterprise. 
Rates were not specifically fixed in these laws, that matter 
and other details being dealt with in the process of adminis- 
tration. It is scarcely possible to ascertain the amount of 
relief afforded, though sundry entries of pension payments 
in colonial records show that the legislation must have had 
considerable effect. 

With regard to pensions, as in other respects, it was natu- 
ral that colonial experience and precedent should have a 
marked influence on the action of the colonies at the out- 
break of the Revolutionary troubles, and that their new na- 
tional government should inaugurate a military pension sys- 
tem. Nor during the Revolution did the States rely entirely 
on Congress to take the initiative in granting pensions. 
Some of them, notably Virginia and Pennsylvania, inde- 
pendently promised liberal allowances to their disabled sol- 

The first national pension law, that of August 26, 1776, 

1 Hening's Statutes at Large, ix, 14, 91, 456, 566; x, 25. Also Laws of Penna., 
i, 488-489. 

233] PRIOR TO 1789 !5 

promised half pay for life or during disability to every offi- 
cer, soldier or sailor losing a limb in any engagement, or be- 
ing so disabled in the service of the United States as to ren- 
der him incapable of earning a livelihood. 1 Proportionate 
relief was promised to such as were only partially disabled 
from getting a livelihood. It was recommended to the 
States to appoint proper officers for the execution of the 
law, and the several legislatures were requested to cause the 
payment on account of the United States of such half pay 
and other allowances as should be adjudged due to the sol- 
diers from their respective States. 

This early national law agreed in principle with the colo- 
nial disability provisions which we have already considered. 
It aimed to encourage enlistment in the Revolutionary Y 
army. 2 The Continental Congress was without money or 
real executive power, and was hence obliged to entrust the 
execution of the act to the States. Consequently, it was 
just as effective as they chose to make it. 

Washington was a strong advocate of a " half pay and pen- 
sionary establishment." On January 28, 1778, during the 
hard winter at Valley Forge, he sent to Congress a gloomy 
account of the condition of his command. 3 He said that, 
on the part of the officers, there were frequent resignations, 
and more frequent importunities for permission to resign, 
and, in the ranks, " apathy, inattention and neglect of duty." 
To reanimate the languishing zeal of the officers, he urged 
upon Congress a provision for half pay and pensions. "This 
would not only dispel the apprehension of personal distress, 
(at) the termination of the war, from having thrown them- 

1 Journals of Congress, i, 454-455. See also, in this connection, Resolution of 
September 25, 1778, Journals of Congress, iii, 68, 69. 

3 An important bounty land resolution of September 16, 1776, was also passed 
with this end in view. 

8 Writings of Washington, vi, 301-304. 


selves (out) of professions and employments they might not 
have it in their power to resume; but would in a great de- 
gree relieve the painful anticipation of leaving their widows 
and orphans, a burthen on the charity of their country, 
should it be their lot to fall in its defence." 

As a result of Washington's appeal, after several weeks of 
deliberation, Congress, on May 15, 1778, unanimously voted 
to all commissioned officers, who should continue in the ser- 
vice of the United States to the end of the war, half pay for 
seven years after its conclusion. 1 This resolution did not 
apply to foreign officers, and the half pay was not to exceed 
that of a colonel. At the same time, Congress promised to 
soldiers who should serve to the end of the war a gratuity 
of eighty dollars. On August 24, 1780, a resolution was 
adopted extending the above half pay provision to the 
widows, or orphan children, of such officers as had died, or 
should die in the service. 2 This was the first national pen- 
sion law in behalf of widows and orphans. Congress recom- 
mended to the several State legislatures to make the neces- 
sary payments on account of the United States.s 

Notwithstanding the efforts to encourage service in the 
army, distress and discontent continued. The Continental 
Congress had neither cash nor credit. It could make prom- 
ises without end, but pay only in its own depreciated and 
worthless bills. The States had little regard for its requisi- 
tions and recommendations. Complaints from the army 
multiplied. No officer could live upon his pay, and hun- 

1 Journals of Congress, ii, 554-555. A vote favorable to a grant of half pay for 
life to those officers was taken on April 26, 1778, but the measure was not at that 
time finally adopted. Ibid. % ii, 528. 

3 Journals of Congress, iii, 512-513. 

8 After the adoption of the Federal Constitution, resolutions of Congress of No- 
vember 2, 1785, and July 23, 1787, were construed as barring further claims under 
the resolution of August 24, 1780. Section I of the Act of March 23, 1792, sus- 
pended the barring resolutions for two years. U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 243. 

235] PRIOR TO 1789 ij 

dreds, unable longer to support themselves, resigned their 
commissions. Others were unfit for duty for want of cloth- 
ing. In this dire emergency, Congress was helpless. 1 

Moved by these troubles, Washington wrote to the Presi- 
dent of Congress, on October II, 1780, urgently advocating 
what he had long desired, a promise of half pay for life to 
those officers who should serve to the end of the war. 3 
" Supported by a prospect of a permanent independence," 
said he, " the officers would be tied to the Service, and 
would submit to many momentary privations, and to the in- 
conveniences, which the situation of public affairs makes un- 
avoidable. This is exemplified in the Pennsylvania officers, 
who, being upon this establishment, 3 are so much interested 
in the Service, that, in the course of five months, there has 
been only one resignation in that line." On October 21, 
1780, Congress, after consideration of the report of the com- 
mittee on General Washington's letter, resolved that all offi- 
cers, who should continue in service to the end of the war, 
should be entitled to half pay during life, to commence from 
the time of their reduction. 4 This action was vigorously op- 
posed in Congress, and caused considerable agitation in 
some of the States. 

During the progress of the war, Congress made further pro- 
vision for invalids by the resolution of April 23, 1782.5 This 
allowed soldiers, who were sick or wounded, and were reported 
unfit for duty either in the field or in garrison, to receive a 
discharge, and to be pensioned at the rate of five dollars 
per month. The States were requested to discharge such 
pensions annually, and to draw upon the Superintendent of 
Finance for the money advanced. 

1 Writings of Washington, viii, 379-380. 2 Ibid., viii, 483-484. 

Pennsylvania by Act of March I, 1780, increased the half pay for seven years, 
granted by Congress to commissioned officers who should serve to the end of the 
war, to half pay for life. Laws of Penna., i, 488-489. 

4 Journals of Congress, iii, 538-539. 5 Ibid., iv, 18-19. 



As the end of the war approached, the feeling against the 
half pay for life to Revolutionary officers grew in some sec- 
tions of the country into a fierce clamor of opposition. The 
officers began to fear that they would never get their due. 
In December, 1782, those of Washington's command set 
forth their grievances in a memorial to Congress. 1 They 
complained that no effectual provision had been made for 
the half pay, and that those entitled to it had become the 
objects of obloquy. The grant seemed to them an honor- 
able and just recompense for years of hard service in which 
they had suffered in health and fortune. If the objection were 
against the mode of reward only, they offered in the interest 
of harmony to commute the half pay pledged for full pay 
during a term of years, or for a sum in gross. Congress was 
also petitioned to make proper provision for the disabled 
officers and soldiers, and for the widows and orphans of 
those who had lost their lives in the service of their country. 

The officers had good reason for their fears, for in Con- 
gress there was determined opposition on the part of the 
New England States to any provision whatever regarding the 
half pay. Various propositions for commutation were voted 
down, 2 the delegates from Connecticut and Rhode Island 3 
being especially instructed against that manner of settlement. 
The validity of the original promise of Congress was called 
in question, but stoutly defended by Madison and by Wil- 
son, of Pennsylvania. The latter criticised instructions 
which 4< militated against the most peremptory and lawful 
engagements of Congress," and said that " if such a doc- 
trine prevailed the authority of the Confederacy was at an 
end." ^ 

Meanwhile, the discontent in the army was reaching acute 

1 Journals of Congress, iv, 207. * Ibid., iv, 152. 

8 Records of Colony of R. /., 1780-1783, ix, 610. 

4 Gilpin, Madison Papers, i, 275-277, 280, 320-321, 358. 

237] PRIOR TO 1789 !<2 

stages. About March 10, 1783, appeared the famous 
" Newburgh addresses," urging the officers of the army not 
to separate until Congress had done justice to their claims. 
Washington transmitted copies of these addresses to Con- 
gress, accompanied by official letters detailing the occur- 
rences at the Newburgh encampment. In his letter of 
March 18, he urged Congress to take measures to carry the 
half pay provision into effect. 1 He pointed out that, at a 
critical and perilous moment, the promise of half pay for 
life had been attended with the happiest consequences, and 
had perhaps prevented the dissolution of the army. The 
establishment of security for the payment of all the just de- 
mands of the army, he thought would be the most certain 
means of preserving the national faith and the future tran- 
quillity of the continent. 

Congress was at length compelled by the critical state of 
affairs to act. On March 22, 1783, the necessary nine States 
voted in favor of commutation of the half pay for life to five 
years' full pay, in money, or in securities bearing interest at 
six per cent, per annum, as Congress should find most con- 
venient. 2 The officers in the lines of the respective States 
were given an option, when acting in each State collectively, 
as to the acceptance or refusal of the securities offered. 
This resolution, known as the Commutation Act, gave great 
satisfaction in the army, as is shown by letters of Washing- 
ton, dated March 30 and 31, 1783.3 

1 Writings of Washington, x, 180-181. Also see Journals of Congress, iv, 

* Journals of Congress, iv, 178-179. In the Address to the States, issued by 
Congress on April 24, 1783, the commutation of half pay was estimated at 
$5,000,000, involving an annual interest charge of $300,000. This address was 
occupied with the financial affairs of the nation, and, in it, Congress asked the 
consent of the States to the laying of an impost duty to provide the general gov- 
ernment with an independent revenue. Journals of Congress, iv, 194-215. 

8 Writings of Washington, x, 199, footnote; 203, footnote. Also Madison 
Papers, i, 433. 


But far different was the feeling among the people of the 
New England States. There the Commutation Act evoked 
a storm of protest. The Massachusetts legislature in July, 
1783, sent to Congress a remonstrance against the act. 1 
They thought the grant more than an adequate reward for 
the services of the officers, " inconsistent with that equality 
* which ought to subsist among citizens of free and republi- 
can States," and " calculated to raise and exalt some citizens 
in wealth and grandeur, to the injury and oppression of 
others." While expressing horror at the most distant idea 
of the dissolution of the union, they observed " that the ex- 
traordinary grants and allowances which Congress have 
thought proper to make to their civil and military officers, 
have produced such effects in this commonwealth, as are of 
a threatening aspect." For these reasons, the General Court 
refused the consent of the State to the impost duty recom- 
mended by Congress in its address, but promised to consider 
the matter again at the next session. 

The extreme gravity of the situation is shown by a letter 
from Madison to Randolph, dated September 8, 1783. He 
said : " The opposition in the New England States to the 
grant of half pay, instead of subsiding, has increased to such 
a degree as to produce almost a general anarchy. In what 
shape it will issue is altogether uncertain. Those who are 
interested in the event look forward with very poignant ap- 
prehensions. Nothing but some Continental provision can 
obtain for them this part of their reward." 3 

In November, 1783, the House of Representatives of Con- 
necticut protested that neither the half pay for life, nor the 
commutation, was warranted by the Articles of Confedera- 
tion, or by any power ever delegated to Congress. 3 Among 

1 Journals of Congress, iv, 276. 

a Madison Papers, i, 572. 

3 Journals of Congress, iv, 347, and Boutell, Life of Roger Sherman, 329-332. 

239] PRIOR TO 1789 21 

the people of this State, the feeling against the Commuta- 
tion Act amounted almost to frenzy. Complaints and 
threats were heard everywhere at the town meetings, and 
two-thirds of the towns were represented at a State conven- 
tion at Middletown, called to take measures of resistance. 
This gathering indulged in plenty of excited speech-making, 
but accomplished nothing of importance. It became after- 
wards the subject of satirical poems and lampoons. Noah 
Webster, then a young man, in a series of able essays pub- 
lished in the Connecticut Courant, strongly condemned the 
opposition of the convention and town meetings, and sup- 
ported the action of Congress. 1 

The agitation against commutation gradually subsided. 
Samuel Adams, who, while in Congress, had vigorously 
opposed the original grant of half pay for life, was among those 
whose influence served powerfully to quiet the public com- 
motion. He held that Congress had an undoubted right to 
make the grant, and that, even though the measure should 
seem to any to have been ill-judged, the States were bound in 
justice and honor to comply with it. 2 To the officers of the 
army, who had felt themselves in danger of receiving nothing 
at all, the provision was in general acceptable. By October 
31, 1783, the Secretary at War reported that the commuta- 
tion had been accepted by the lines of New Hampshire, 
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New 
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and 
also by numerous separate commands and individuals. 3 Con- 
gress issued a proclamation disbanding the army from and 
after November 3, 1 783.4 

In settling the claims of the officers of the army, the Pay- 
master General found that the number who were entitled to 

1 Wells, Life of S. Adams, iii, 207-208, and McMaster, History, i, 180, footnote. 

* Wells, Life of S. Adams, iii, 208-210. 

* Journals of Congress, iv, 31 1, 4 Ibid., iv, 299. 


half pay or commutation was 2,480. Since the Confedera- 
tion had no available funds, the officers received not money 
but commutation certificates, payable to them or bearer and 
drawing interest at six per cent. These proved wretched 
security. No provision was for paying either interest 
or principal. Many officers were driven by necessity to part 
with their certificates for what they could obtain, and their 
cash value in the market soon fell to twelve and a half cents 
on the dollar. 1 After the adoption of the Federal Constitution, 
the act for the funding of the domestic debt provided that, 
beginning with January I, 1791, the holders of commutation 
certificates should receive a three per cent stock for the in- 
terest in arrears, a six per cent stock for two thirds of the 
principal, and a deferred stock, bearing no interest until the 
expiration of ten years, and then at six per cent for the 
other third. 2 At this time a large share of the certificates 
was in the hands of speculators, and officers, who had parted 

^ with them for a small fraction of their face value, lost all ad- 
vantage from the provision so tardily made. 3 

A On June 7, 1785, some time after peace had been estab- 
lished and the army disbanded, the matter of invalid pensions 
again received the attention of Congress. 4 In the resolu- 
tions adopted at this time, a uniform method of providing 
for the invalid pensioners was recommended to the several 
states. Commissioned officers, so disabled as to be wholly 
incapable of earning a livelihood, were to be allowed a half 
pay pension. For non-commissioned officers or privates, a 

1 See Reports of Committees (H. of R.), 2d Sess., ipth Congress, i, no. 6. 

2 Act of August 4, 1790, U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 138. 

3 The settlement of these half pay claims was long a cause of dissatisfaction 
among surviving Revolutionary officers. The matter was frequently agitated and 
debated in Congress until the passage of the Act of May 15, 1828, an account of 
which is given in the next chapter. 

* Journah of Congress, iv, 534-535. 


241] PRIOR TO 1789 23 

full pension was fixed at five dollars per month. Propor- 
tional rates might be allowed for partial disability. Congress 
requested that each State should appoint officers to examine 
the evidence of claimants, admit claims, and make the pen- ' 
sion payments. Amounts so expended were to be deducted 
from the respective quotas of the States for the year in which 
the payments were made. No officer who had accepted his 
commutation for half pay was to be entered on the list of in- 
valids, unless he should first have returned his commutation. 
This plan also made it the duty of the State authorities to 
transmit annually complete lists of the invalid pensioners of 
the United States in each State to the office of the Secretary 
of War, with information as to the pay, age, service and dis- 
ability of each invalid. 1 

The Congress of the Confederation passed, on June II, 
1788, its last resolutions on the subject of invalid pensions. 2 
One of these declared : " That no person shall be entitled to 
a pension as an invalid who has not, or shall not before the 
expiration of six months from this time, make application 
therefor, and produce the requisite certificates and evidence 
to entitle him thereto." If this limitation had been retained 
in force, no Revolutionary invalid pensions could have been 
allowed after December II, 1788, except by special act. In 
1792, before the limitation was suspended by the Federal 
Congress, there were about 1,500 invalid pensioners on the 
rolls under the laws thus far considered. 3 

The body of pension and half pay legislation, which we 
have examined, was primarily intended as an incentive to L/ 
enlistment and service in the military forces of the revolting 

colonies. The invalid pension provisions depended for their 


1 See Hening, xi, 102, for the Virginia law passed in pursuance of this act of 

* Journals of Congress, iv, 821. The resolution quoted is so in text. 
3 American State Papers, Claims, 57. 


efficacy upon State action, which was often lacking. But 
Congress, after the inauguration of the Federal Government, 
v allowed to invalid pensioners the payments which had been 
left in arrears by the States. 1 The half pay legislation aimed 
at keeping the officers in service in the face of the most dis- 
couraging conditions. It was virtually the promise of a re- 
tirement pension at the close of the war, in lieu of pay and 
other proper provisions during the progress of hostilities. 
We have seen how the promise was kept. From the stand- 
point of mere numbers of persons and sums of money in- 
volved, the pension legislation of this period is not of great 
importance. But it is of importance, both in its connection 
with the history of the time, and as the source from which 
our great national pension system has developed. With the 
growth of that system, its ever broadening scope and in- 
creasing liberality, its complicated and difficult administra- 
tion, and its often wasteful extravagance, this study is occu- 

1 U. S. Statutes atLargt, vi, 4. 



AMONG the many changes brought about by the inaugu- 
ration of the Federal Government in 1 789 was the centraliza- 
tion of pension administration. The first Congress under 
the new government provided, in September, 1789, for the 
continuance by the United States of the pensions which, 
under Congressional authority, had been granted and paid 
by the States to Revolutionary invalids. 1 This continuance, 
at first for one year, was several times renewed for a like 
period, and finally extended indefinitely for the life of the 
pensioners. In 1790, the United States also undertook the 
payment of certain arrears to March 4, 1789, due to Revo- 
lutionary pensioners, and unpaid through the neglect or re- 
fusal of the States to act. 2 The Secretary of War became 
the principal executive officer concerned with the national 
pension administration, but Congress for a long time reserved 
to itself a direct control over the final allowance of claims. 
It is noteworthy that there was not a complete transfer of 
pensioners from State to national rolls. Individual States 
continued to pay regular stipends to many persons who 
been pensioned for various causes under State laws, but 
without authority of Congress. 

Scarcely had the National Government assumed the pen- 
sion administration when Congress was beset with petitions 
from soldiers of the Revolution for original pensions or in- 
crease. Some had neglected to apply within the time limit 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 95. * Ibid., vi, 4. 

243] 25 


prescribed by previous legislation; others, unsuccessful in 
the States, came to Congress with their claims. Special 
legislation was the only means of relief, since there was no 
general law in force. 

These claims were frequently referred for a report and 
opinion to the Secretary of War, General Knox. We find 
that he was not favorably disposed toward them, especially 
where they had been already rejected in the States. He 
thought that claims which had failed under all the circum- 
stances of local information and influence, even though the 
provision was made at the expense of the United States, 
could not be well founded. Knox also advised Congress to 
adhere to the six months' limitation prescribed by the resolu- 
tion of June n, 1788. Had his counsel shaped the policy 
of the Government, the payments to Revolutionary pensioners 
would never have been of much importance. In March, 
1792, the number of non-commissioned officers and privates 
on the general pension list was 1,358, none of whom received 
a pension exceeding five dollars per month. The entire 
number of invalid pensioners of all descriptions at that time 
was 1,472. With no general pension law, and with special 
acts passed only in exceptional cases, death would have 
slowly but surely wiped out this small list. 1 

Quite different was the actual course of events. Respond- 
ing to the pressure of applicants and to favorable expressions 
of public opinion, Congress enacted the general pension law 
of March 23, I792. 2 As a pension law, it is of small import- 
ance, for the greater part of it was soon repealed. Its great 
significance is found in the fact that it furnished the first 
occasion for a disagreement between Congress and the 
Judiciary as to their respective powers under the Federal 

1 See Reports of Sec'y Knox, American State Papers, Claims, 5, 18, 28, 57. 
1 U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 243. 

245] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 2 / 

The law imposed upon the Circuit Courts of the United 
States the duty of examining, in person, applicants for pen- 
sions, receiving prescribed proofs of service and disability, 
and determining the nature and degree of the disability. If 
an applicant was found entitled to be placed on the pension 
list, the court was required to transmit a written report to 
that effect to the Secretary of War with an opinion as to the 
proportion of the monthly pay of the applicant, which would 
be equivalent to the degree of disability ascertained. The 
Secretary of War was then to place the name of the appli- 
cant upon the pension list of the United States, in conform- 
ity to the opinion of the court and accompanying certifi- 
cates. But when the Secretary suspected imposition or 
mistake, he was empowered to withhold the name from the 
pension list, and make report of the matter to Congress for 
consideration at the next session. Thus each Circuit Court 
was virtually constituted a bureau for the examination and 
allowance of pension claims, with its decisions subject to 
revision by the Secretary of War and Congress. 

The judges promptly denied the power of Congress to 
impose upon them the duties set forth in the above act. 
Chief Justice John Jay and Associate Justice William Cush- 
ing, of the Supreme Court, sitting with James Duane, dis- 
trict judge, as a Circuit Court for the district of New York, 
sent, in April, 1792, to President Washington a letter of pro- 
test, which they desired him to communicate to Congress. 1 
With boldness and unanimity they asserted the independence 
of the judiciary as a distinct and co-ordinate branch of the 
government. Neither the legislative nor the executive 
branch, argued they, could constitutionally assign to the 
judicial any duties but such as were properly judicial and to 
be performed in a judicial manner. The duties imposed by 

1 American State Papers, Miscellaneous, i, 49-53. See also Carson, Supreme 
Court of United States, 162-163. 


the act in question were not of that description, since the 
decisions of the court were made subject to the considera- 
tion of the Secretary of War and to the revision of the legis- 
lature ; whereas, under the Constitution, no executive officer, 
nor even the legislature, was authorized to sit as a court of 
errors on the judicial acts or opinions of the Circuit Courts. 
Similar opinions were expressed in letters to the President 
from the judges of the Pennsylvania and North Carolina Cir- 
cuit Courts. The judges of the New York Circuit were, how- 
ever, willing to regard themselves as commissioners, desig- 
nated by the act, and therefore at liberty either to accept or 
decline the office. Since the objects of the law were benev- 
olent, they agreed to adjudicate claims as commissioners, 
adjourning the Circuit Court for that purpose. 

As a consequence of the refusal of the Pennsylvania Cir- 
cuit Court to recognize the validity of the act of 1792, At- 
torney General Randolph, at the August term of that year, 
made application to the Supreme Court for a writ of man- 
damus directing the Pennsylvania court to proceed in the 
case of William Hayburn, an applicant for a pension. 1 No 
decision was ever pronounced, as, while the matter was yet 
under consideration, Congress passed a law providing other 
regulations for the granting of pensions. 

Some of the judges, styling themselves commissioners, 
adjudicated claims under the disputed law. 2 Such adjudica- 
tions were declared invalid by the Supreme Court in Feb- 
ruary, 1794, in the case of Yale Todd, a Connecticut claim- 
ant. 3 But this decision, while denying the authority of the 
judges to act in the capacity of commissioners under the 
act of 1792, did not touch the main question of the consti- 
tutionality of that law. There seems to have been no formal 
judicial decision on that point, but the letters of the judges 

1 Hayburn's Case, 2 Dallas, 409. 

* American State Papers, Claims, 56-67. 3 13 Howard, 52, note. 

247] RE VOL UTIONAR Y, 1789-1878 2 $ 

clearly indicate their opinion. The case is important as 
being the first in the history of the Federal Government in 
which a law was rendered of no effect by the virtual, if not 
formally expressed, opinion of the Supreme Court that it was 
repugnant to the Constitution. 1 

Congress yielded to the contention of the Judiciary by 
passing the act of February 28, 1793, which repealed the 
objectionable sections of the act of 1792 and established 
new regulations. 2 All evidence relative to invalids was to be 
taken upon oath before the judge of the district in which the 
invalids resided, or before any three persons commissioned 
by the judge. Claimants were required to prove decisive 
disability resulting from known wounds received while in the 
actual line of duty in the service of the United States during 
the Revolutionary War. Each district judge was directed to 
transmit a list of claims, accompanied by all required evi- 
dence, to the Secretary of War for comparison with the mus- 
ter rolls and other documents in his office. The Secretary 
was then to make a statement of the cases to Congress, 
which reserved to itself the power of final action in the al- 
lowance of claims. No claim under the law was to be 
allowed unless presented within two years from its passage. 

The evidence in support of many of the applications 
under this act was very defective. Muster rolls were lost, 
and the proof, in most cases, depended alone upon the affi- 
davits produced by the claimants. The Secretary of War 
transmitted to Congress lists of claimants as provided by 
law. In one instance, Congress granted pensions to all per- 
sons included in the Secretary's report whom he should find 
to have clearly established claims under the law. 3 In acting 
upon later lists, Congress specifically named each individual 

1 See Thayer, Cases on Constitutional Law, Parts i and ii, 105 note, and also 
131 U. S., Appendix, ccxxxv. 

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 324. 3 Ibid., i, 392. 


to whom a pension- was allowed, together with the rate at 
which he was to be paid. 1 A full pension for a non-commis- 
sioned officer or private soldier was fixed at five dollars per 
month, and for a commissioned officer at one-half of his 
monthly pay. 

Between 1793 and 1803, no important alterations in the 
existing Revolutionary pension laws were made. There 
seems to have prevailed a laudable disposition to guard the 
interests of the Government against claims of an unreasona- 
ble or fraudulent character. On a proposition in 1798 to 
amend the acts respecting invalid pensioners, the Committee 
on Claims of the House of Representatives, after reviewing 
the course of pension legislation to that date, reported that 
" the provisions heretofore made for admission of claims of 
this nature have been as extensive as the principles of jus- 
tice, equity or good policy required ; and that it would not 
be expedient to make any alteration in the existing laws." 3 

Such views, however, did not long prevail. The expira- 
tion, in 1795, of the act of 1793 had left the statute books 
for some time without any general provision for the further 
admission of Revolutionary pension claims. But the solici- 
tations of claimants continued, and, in 1803, Congress was 
prevailed upon to enact a new invalid pension law.s Rates 
remained as under the act of 1793, and the method of ad- 
ministration was much the same. The most important 
change in procedure was the endowment of the Secretary of 
War with the power of final decision in the allowance of 

A supplementary act of March 3, 1805, extended the 
benefits of the pension law to those who, in consequence of 
known wounds received in the military service during the 
Revolution, had at any period since the war become and con- 

1 For example, see Act of April 20, 1796, U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 454. 

3 American State Papers, Claims, 216-218. *U. S. Statutes at Large, ii, 242. 

2 49 ] RE VOL u TIONAR Y, 1789-1878 3 1 

tinued disabled so as to render them unable to procure a 
subsistence by manual labor. 1 This opened the way for the 
tracing of the disabilities and ills of later life to wounds from 
which the claimants had apparently enjoyed a complete re- 

Invalid pension legislation on behalf of soldiers of the 
Revolution reached its most comprehensive form in the act 
of April 10, i8o6, 2 and supplementary provisions. This 
liberal law repealed all former enactments conferring pen- 
sions on Revolutionary invalids, and from the date of its 
passage became the fundamental provision upon which the 
claims of such invalids were thereafter based. It did not, of 
course, affect pensions already granted. Within the scope 
of this act of 1806 were included all those classes of claim- 
ants who had been provided for by previous legislation, and, 
in addition, all volunteers, militia and State troops, who had 
served against the common enemy in the Revolutionary War. 
Disability must have been the result of known wounds re- 
ceived in the line of duty, and must have been such as to 
render the applicant wholly or partially unable to procure a 
subsistence by manual labor. Desertion was a bar to a 
claim. The method of taking evidence and examining 
claims was similar to that under the laws of 1/93 and 1803. 
Congress, however, once more reserved to itself the power 
of final action in placing names on the pension list, which 
had been delegated to the Secretary of War under the act of 

Rates of pensions under the act of 1806 were the same as 
under previous laws. Each pension was to commence on the 
date of the completion of the testimony. For the first time, 
regulations were established in accordance with which an in- 
crease of pension might be granted by Congress in cases 
where justice required, but, with the increase added, no more 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, ii, 345. 8 Ibid., ii, 376. 


than a total disability rate might be paid. The sale, trans- 
fer or mortgage of the whole or any part of a pension before 
the same became due was declared invalid. Claims in pro- 
cess of adjudication were not prejudiced by this law, and its 
operation was limited to six years from the date of its pass- 

In the execution of the law of 1806, Congress passed a 
series of acts pensioning long lists of claimants at varying 
rates per month. One of these acts which became law on 
April 25, 1808, contained two important additional sections. 1 

Section 3 directed the Secretary of War to place on the 
pension list of the United States all persons who remained 
on the pension lists of any of the States, and were placed 
there in consequence of disability occasioned by known 
wounds received during the Revolutionary War, whether on 
land or sea, in the service of the United States or of any 
particular State, in the regular army, militia or volunteers. 
This completed the assumption by the United States of the 
payment of all the Revolutionary invalid pensioners in the 
States. Section 4 of this act of 1 808 extend the benefits of 
the act of 1 806 to all persons who had been disabled since the 
Revolutionary War, while in the line of duty, in the actual 
service of the United States, whether belonging to the 
military establishment, or the militia, or any volunteer corps, 
called into service under authority of the United States. 

When the act of 1806 expired by limitation in 1812, it 
was renewed and continued in force for six years by the act 
of April 25, 1812. It was afterwards revived for one year 
by the act of May 15, 1820, and for periods of six years 
each by the acts of February 4, 1822, and May 24, i828. 2 
These later renewals were subject to amendments which had 
been made, and which will be mentioned in due time. 

A step in the direction of increased pension expenditures 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, ii, 491. * Ibid., ii, 718; iii, 596, 650; iv, 307. 

251] RE VOL UTIONAR Y, 1789-1878 3 3 

was taken in the act of April 24, I8I6. 1 About the time of 
the passage of this law, the United States was expending 
annually $120,000 for pensions. There were 185 officers 
and 1,572 non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the 
Revolutionary army on the rolls, and 52 officers and 391 
soldiers who had become disabled since the Revolution, 
making an aggregate of 2,200 pensioners. 2 The rate of a 
full pension for a private was increased from five to eight 
dollars per month. Pensions of first lieutenants and com- 
missioned officers below that grade were also increased to 
the extent of two or three dollars per month. The act ap- 
plied both to those already on the rolls, and to those of the 
grades mentioned who should thereafter be granted pensions. 
It was estimated that the annual expenditure for pensions 
would be increased to about $200,000, including the claims 
up to that time allowed on account of the War of 1812. 
Under carefully executed invalid laws, the annual payments 
for Revolutionary pensions had apparently reached a maxi- 

We now come to the time when a new principle was intro- 
duced into national pension legislation by the enactment of 
the Revolutionary service pension law of March 18, i8i8. 3 
With this measure came unsavory scandals and a startling 
increase of pension expenditures. In his message of De- 
cember, 1817, President Monroe had recommended to Con- 
gress some provision for the indigent survivors of the Revo- 
lutionary army, of whom he thought there were but few. 4 
General Bloomfield, of New Jersey, promptly reported to 
the House a bill designed to carry the President's recom- 
mendation into effect. The extended debates on the meas- 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, iii, 296. 

J American State Papers, Claims, 473-474. 

5 U. S. Statutes at Large, iii, 410. 

* Annals of Congress, 1st Sess., I5th Cong., 1817-1818, i, 19. 


ure served to show a wide diversity of opinion in Congress 
regarding the proper nature and scope of pension legisla- 
tion, and the law finally enacted was quite different from the 
original bill. 

In both Houses there were pronounced majorities in favor 
of the passage of a service pension law, but, as to its de- 
tailed provisions, there was lack of harmony. Some wished 
a pure service pension law; others advocated a measure 
based upon " service and poverty." The advocates of a 
service law knew nothing as to the probable number of ap- 
plications which would follow its passage, nor had they any 
conception of its probable cost. Such estimates as they 
attempted proved ridiculously small in the light of later 
experience. 1 

Advocates of the proposed bill pointed complacently to 
the surplus in the Treasury. The burden of their argument 
was eulogy of the Revolutionary soldiers, praise of their ser- 
vices, descriptions of the privations they had undergone, 
and an appeal to the gratitude of the country. ' Let us 
show the world that Republics are not ungrateful," said one 
of the speakers. Another appealed to Congress thus : 
"Permit not him, who, in the pride of vigor and youth, 
wasted his health and shed his blood in freedom's cause, 
with desponding heart and palsied limbs to totter from door 
to door, bowing his yet untamed soul to meet the frozen 
bosom of reluctant charity." 

In the Senate, this service pension law was opposed by a 
minority, strong in arguments but weak in numbers. Sena- 
tor William Smith of South Carolina opposed the general 
principle of the measure, and asserted that it was a way to 
get rid of a little money in the Treasury not immediately 
wanted. To those who supported the bill from sentiment, 

1 In the Senate, Goldsborough, of Maryland, estimated the number of appli- 
cants under the law as, at the largest, less than 1900. 

253] RE VOL UTIONAR y, 1789-1878 3 5 

he said that good feelings were a miserable guide to a legis- 
lator. Nor did he believe that Congress had any power 
under the Constitution to pass such a law, the many prece- 
dents notwithstanding. The following extract from his 
speech seems almost prophetic in the light of later experi- 
ence : 

" As an argument, it would appear } to avoid an inquiry into the 
propriety of this measure, we are told such a case can never happen 
again that you can never have another Revolutionary War. Will 
not those brave men who fought your battles and triumphed so gal- 
lantly over the enemy at Chippewa, Plattsburg, Erie, Champlain, 
Orleans and on the seas, have the same claims upon their country 
some thirty-five years hence, when time shall have thrown a veil over 
all the minute circumstances, and it shall be forgotten that they re- 
tired from the army with reluctance, after being abundantly paid and 
abundantly honored ? 

Their claim will be as great, and the precedent you are about to 
make will be followed. One army you say gained your independence,, 
and the other has given it a new character, and made it worth main- 
taining. They have released your country from its degraded state of 
impressments, paper blockades, royal orders in council, and imperial 
decrees, and given it as high a grade in the scale of nations as your 
independence. This will be the beginning of a military pension sys- 
tem which posterity may regret" ' 

The force of Senator Smith's words is felt when we re- 
member that service pension laws, more or less limited, have 
been passed on account of the War of 1812, the Mexican 
War, and the Indian Wars ; and that the Dependent Pen- 
sion Law of 1 890, enacted on account of the Civil War, is a 
near approach to a service law, and has already drawn hun- 
dreds of millions of dollars from the national Treasury. The 
service pension system, inaugurated in 1818, has truly be- 
come a burden which posterity regrets. 

1 For Senator Smith's speech, see Annals of Congress, 1st Sess., I5th Cong., i, 
140-150. The italics in the extract are introduced by the writer. 


The act of 1818 passed the House of Representatives 
without division. In the Senate, its scope was considerably 
limited by amendments, but only a small minority actively 
opposed it. The act provided that every person who had 
served in the Revolutionary War until its close, or for the 
term of nine months or longer at any period of the war, on 
the Continental establishment or in the navy, and who was a 
resident citizen of the, United States, and was by reason of 
his reduced circumstances in life " in need of assistance from 
his country for support/' should receive a pension. If an 
officer, the rate was twenty dollars per month, and if a non- 
commissioned officer or private, eight dollars per month, 
during life. No person was to be entitled to the benefits of 
the act until he should have relinquished his claim to every 
pension heretofore allowed him by the laws of the United 

Evidence in support of claims was taken before the dis- 
trict judges of the United States, or before any judge or 
court of record of the county, state or territory in which the 
applicant resided. It consisted of the claimant's own decla- 
ration, supported by such other testimony as he might be 
able to procure. If satisfied of the claimant's service, the 
judge was required to transmit the testimony and proceed- 
ings in the case to the Secretary of War, whose duty it was, 
if he considered the claim a legal one, to place the appli- 
cant on the pension list of the United States. The statute 
prescribed no method of proof of the claimant's need of 
assistance, but the regulations of the War Department re- 
quired his oath and the certificate of the judge to establish 
that fact. 1 It is to be noted that, in the execution of this 
law, Congress gave the Secretary of War final power in the 
allowance of claims. Pensions, if allowed, were to com- 
mence from the date of the applicant's declaration. 

1 American State Papers, Claims, 682-684. 

2 5 5 j RE VOL UTIONAR Y, 1789-1878 3 7 

If the members of Congress, who anticipated but few 
claims under the act of 1818, were sincere, they must have 
been astounded at the eager rush for pensions when the law 
came into operation. The country at large was certainly 
surprised and indignant. By the middle of September, the 
number of applications was so great that it was not possible 
with every exertion to act upon them as fast as they came 
in. 1 Flagrant abuses of the act of 1818 were the subject of 
severe comment in the newspapers of the time. 2 Men of 
means were charged with having made themselves out to be 
paupers in order to receive the benefits of the act, and others 
were said to have deposited the whole amount of their pen- 
sions in savings banks. The American people did not relish 
an increase of the annual pension expenditure from two or 
three hundred thousand dollars to two or three millions. In 
Connecticut, so great was the popular indignation at pension 
frauds that a meeting was held " to ascertain the names of 
the pensioners, and cause those to be erased from the list, if 
possible, who should not receive the public money, meant to 
be distributed only to the needy and destitute." 3 

At the first session of the Sixteenth Congress, in Decem- 
ber, 1819, the question of pension frauds demanded and re- 
ceived attention. The repeal of the act of 1818 found some 
advocates, but this was deemed inexpedient. Secretary 
Calhoun admitted that, in spite of every precaution, the War 
Department had probably been imposed upon to a consider- 
able extent as to the circumstances of claimants. His re- 
ports also showed that, in the number of pensioners under 
the law, the leading states were as follows : New York, Mass- 
achusetts, District of Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New 

1 Niks' Register, xv, 63. 

1 Ibid., xvii, 99. Contains extracts from various newspapers. 

3 Ibid., xvii, 321. 


Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The entire absence of 
Southern States from this list is noticeable. 1 

Public indignation at exposures of fraud led Congress to 
enact remedial legislation in the act of May i, i82O. 2 This 
required pensioners under the act of 1818, and also all who 
should thereafter apply for pensions under that law, to sub- 
mit sworn schedules of their whole estate and income, ex- 
clusive of necessary clothing and bedding. They were also 
required to take oath that they had not disposed of any part 
of their property with the intention of bringing themselves 
within the provisions of the law, and that they had not in 
person or in trust property or income of any kind other than 
that shown in the schedules subscribed by them. The Sec- 
retary of War was authorized to strike from the list of pen- 
sioners those persons, who, in his opinion, were not in such 
indigent circumstances as to be unable to support themselves 
without the assistance of their country. Revolutionary in- 
valid pensioners, who had relinquished their pensions in 
order to avail themselves of the act of 1818, and who, by 
virtue of this supplementary act, might be stricken from the 
pension list, were to be restored to the pensions re- 

The act of 1820 caused the names of thousands of pen- 
sioners to be stricken from the rolls. Many of those who 
applied for continuance suffered a rejection of their claims, 
and others, without hope of favorable action, failed to exhibit 
the required schedules, and were consequently dropped. 
The fact that there had been great frauds and impositions on 
the generosity of the Government was clearly established. 3 

Secretary Calhoun made a report to the Senate, in Feb- 
ruary, 1823, on the operation of the acts of March 18, 1818, 

1 See American State Papers, Claims, 682-684, 703-704. 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, iii, 569. 

3 Regarding execution of Act of 1820, see Niles' Register, xix, 243. 

257] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 39 

and May I, 1820.' The total number of persons whose 
claims had been admitted under both laws was 18,880, and 
of these 12,331 were on the rolls on September 4, 1822. 
The remainder had for the most part been removed by the 
operation of the act of i82O. 2 " In 1818, the sum of $104,- 
900.85 was paid to pensioners under the act of that year; in 
1819, $1,811,328.96; in 1820, the sum paid was only $1,- 
373,849.41, the list of pensioners having been reduced by 
the operation of the act of 1st May, 1820; in 1821, the sum 
of $1,200,000 was paid, and, in the year 1822, the sum of 
$1,833,936.30." The apparent increase in 1822 was due to 
the fact that a deficiency of $451,836 for the previous year 
was included. A greater number having applied for pen- 
sions in 1821 than had been anticipated, the estimates for 
that year had proved very deficient, and the amount was made 
up in the next year's appropriation. 

By the act of March I, 1823, Congress provided for the 
restoration to the pension list of those persons who had 
been dropped on account of the evidence afforded by their 
schedules of property, but had since become so reduced in 
circumstances as to need a pension. 3 The practical effect of 
this measure was to return to the pension list a large number 
of those persons whom the act of 1820 had removed. 

The pension business had now become so great that Con- 
gress finally abandoned the attempt to participate in the de- 
tailed administration of general laws. The fourth section of 
an act of March 3, i8i9, 4 gave the Secretary of War power 
to place persons entitled to invalid pensions under the act of 
April 10, 1806, and under the fourth section of the act of 
April 25, 1808, upon the pension list without reporting to 

1 American State Papers, Claims, 885. 
3 There were, of course, some removals caused by death. 

8 U. S. Statutes at Large, iii, 782. Found in statutes among acts of March 3, 
1823. * Ibid., iii, 526. 


Congress for final action. As to service pensions, this power 
had already been conferred upon the Secretary by the orig- 
inal terms of the act of 1818. In the period during which 
it exercised the power of final action, Congress had usually 
been guided by the recommendations of the Secretary of 

For a few years, there was no further Revolutionary pen- 
sion legislation of importance. But soon the troublesome 
question of the claims of the Revolutionary officers, who 
had been entitled to half pay for life under the resolution of 
October 21, 1780, came up for consideration. The survi- 
vors were not satisfied with the results of the commutation 
and settlement of their half pay, and, at intervals from 1810 
to 1827, they besought Congress for an allowance from the 
National Treasury. President John Quincy Adams, in his 
message of December, 1827, recommended to the considera- 
tion of Congress " the debt, rather of justice than gratitude, 
to the surviving warriors of the Revolutionary War." 1 
Congress took action in the passage of the law of May 15, 

This act granted full pay for life, beginning with March 3, 
1826, to the surviving Revolutionary officers in the Continen- 
tal line, who had been entitled to half pay for life by the 
resolution of October 21, 1780. The same allowance was 
also made for non-commissioned officers and soldiers, who 
enlisted for the war and served until its end, and thereby be- 
came entitled to receive the reward of eighty dollars prom- 
ised by the resolution of May 15, 1778. The beneficiaries 
under this act were required to give up other pensions which 
they might be receiving under the laws of the United States, 
but, under later amendments, were permitted to retain in- 
valid pensions. The act of 1828 was not at first regarded as 

1 House Journal, 1st Sess., 2Oth Cong., 23. 2 U. S. Statutes at Large, iv, 269. 

259] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 41 

an ordinary pension law, and it was executed by the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury. In 1835 this function was transferred 
to the Secretary of War. At the end of 1828, about 850 
persons had been allowed the full pay for life. 1 

About 1830, the rapid extinction of the public debt 
promised soon to leave the United States with a considerable 
annual surplus in the Treasury. There was great opposition 
to a reduction in existing tariff rates, and, under the circum- 
stances, proposals were made to spend more money for pen- 
sions. President Jackson, in his message of December, 
1829, suggested the extension of the benefits of the pension 
laws to all Revolutionary soldiers who were unable to main- 
tain themselves in comfort. 2 

In accordance with Jackson's suggestion, there was a 
prompt movement in Congress to widen the scope of the 
pension laws. One bill, introduced for this purpose, passed 
the House, but was indefinitely postponed in the Senate. 
In debate upon this measure, Senator Hayne of South Caro- 
lina, on April 29, 1830, made a notable speech in which he 
reviewed the course of pension legislation to that time. 3 

While not entirely accurate in details, he showed a good 
knowledge of the general subject. He opposed the at- 
tempt to admit to the company of the war-worn veterans of 
the Revolution a host, many of whom had never even seen 
an enemy, " mere sunshine and holiday soldiers, the hang- 
ers-on of the camp, men of straw, substitutes, who never en- 
listed until after the preliminaries of peace were signed." 
Down to the year 1818, as he pointed out, the national pen- 
sion system had been based upon the principle of disability. 
The law of that year had abandoned this principle, and 
made service and poverty the basis of pensions. The atten- 

1 Report of Sec V of Treasury, State Papers, 2d Sess., 2Oth Cong., ii, no. 68. 

2 Senate Journal, ist Sess., 2ist Cong., 1829-1830, 17. 

3 Benton's Debates, x, 547-555. 


tion of the Senate was called to the circumstances attending 
the passage of the act of 1818, and to the resulting scandal 
and fraud. With the experience afforded by that law in 
mind, the senator urged that it was folly to open a wide door 
to similar and greater evils. 

In the latter part of his speech, Hayne asserted that there 
was an intimate connection between the proposed increase of 
pension expenditures and the maintenance of a protective 
tariff policy. He said : 

" I consider this bill as a branch of a great system, calculated and 
intended to creatj a permanent charge upon the Treasury, with a 
view to delay the payment of the public debt, and to postpone, in- 
definitely, the claims of the people for a reduction of taxes, when 
the debt shall be finally extinguished. It is an important link in 
the chain by which th? American system party hope to bind the 
people, now and forever, to the payment of the enormous duties 
deemed necessary for the protection of domestic manufactures." 

Senator Hayne thought schemes for internal improve- 
ment, for colonization, education, distribution of surplus 
revenue, and many others " all admirably calculated to pro- 
mote the great end the absorption of the public revenue.' 1 

"But," said he, 4< of all the measures devised for this purpose, this 
grand pension system, got up last year, and revived during the 
present session, is by far the most specious, the most ingeniously 
contrived, and the best calculated for the accomplishment of the 
object. Here gentlemen are supplied with a fine topic for declama- 
tion. ' Gratitude for Revolutionary services !' ' the claims of the 
poor soldiers !' these are the popular topics which it is imagined 
will carry away the feelings of the people, and reconcile them to a 
measure which must unquestionably establish a permanent charge 
upon the Treasury to an enormous amount, and thereby furnish a 
plausible excuse for keeping up the system of high duties." 

Under the existing tariff arrangements, Hayne claimed 
that the South was paying the greater portion of the duties 
which supplied the Treasury, and that the public money 


REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 43 

was expended chiefly in the North. This was nowhere bet- 
ter illustrated than in the pension system. From official re- 
ports, he stated that the whole amount of appropriations 
for pensions under the act of 1818 had been about $14,- 
175,000, and that there had been paid to all other pen- 
sioners from the beginning of the government, $6,360,000, 
making a total of $20,535,000. Of the sixteen thousand 
pensioners on the roll at the last report, about twelve 
thousand resided in the ten States north of Maryland, and 
four thousand in the Southern and Western States. From 
this rough basis, Hayne drew the conclusion that about fif- 
teen of the twenty millions paid to pensioners had gone 
North, and about five millions to the South and West. He 
thought an extension of the pension system would be likely 
to operate in the same way, and, when this system degen- 
erated into a mere scheme for the distribution of the public 
money, the South had a right to complain of its gross in- 

The opposition to an extension of the pension laws, so 
ably represented by Hayne, prevailed in the Twenty-First 
Congress, but in the next Congress the matter came up 
again, and pension bills were introduced into House and 
Senate. The House bill was extravagantly liberal. Mr. 
Davis of South Carolina said that its passage would be a 
signal that would " wake up from the slumbers of the grave 
almost as many dead militia as the last trumpet; not 
harmless ghosts and spectres, but substantial pensioners, 
tax receivers, and consumers of the substance of the people." x 
Mr. Johnston of Virginia pronounced it not an " old soldier's 
bill," but rather " a waste dam to let off surplus revenue." 
This measure passed the House by an overwhelming 
majority, but the Senate preferred to consider its own bill. 
This was less extravagant than that of the House, and was 

1 Congressional Debates, Vol. viii, Part ii, 2434. 

t ',% 


in form supplementary to the act of 1828. Hayne led a 
vigorous but unsuccessful opposition. Senator Foot, who 
was in charge of the bill, estimated that it would produce 
an annual charge on the Treasury not to exceed $450,000. 
The Senate's measure was passed, accepted by the House, 
and was approved by the President on June 7, 1832.* 

This is probably the most important act passed on ac- 
count of Revolutionary services. It granted to all who had 
completed, at one or more terms, a total service of two 
years during the Revolutionary War, whether in Continental 
or State troops, volunteers or militia, or in the navy, and 
who were not entitled to any benefit under the act of May 
15, 1828, full pay for life according to rank, not to exceed 
a captain's pay, to commence from March 4, 1831. All who 
had completed a total sendee of not less than six months 
were to receive for life an annuity bearing the same propor- 
tion to the amount granted those who had served two 
years, as did the terms of service to the full two years. 
Every one who received the benefits of this law was required 
to relinquish any pension received by him under any other 
Revolutionary pension act, but the amendment of February 
19, 1833, excepted invalid pensioners from the operation of 
this provision. 

The Secretary of the Treasury was originally charged with 
the execution of the act of 1832, but this duty was trans- 
ferred to the Secretary of War by the resolution of June 28, 
1832. Evidence in support of claims was taken in the form 
of declarations upon oath before a court of record in the 
county where the applicant resided. In the case of the 
regular or Continental troops, the evidence could be com- 
pared with the muster rolls in the possession of the War 
Department, but, in the case of the State troops, volunteers 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, iv, 529. 

263] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 45 

and militia, the Department possessed no rolls except of the 
State troops of Virginia and the militia of New Hampshire. 

This lack of rolls necessitated, in the consideration of a 
large number of applications, entire reliance upon the sworn 
declarations of the claimant and his witnesses, except in so 
far as his narrative of service could be compared with the 
known events of the period of the alleged service. Much 
importance was attached to traditionary evidence, such as a 
general belief in the neighborhood that the claimant had 
been a Revolutionary soldier. This was required to be 
established by the evidence of the nearest clergyman and 
other persons of character and standing in the community. 1 

These provisions were extremely liable to abuse, and 
frauds soon came to light in various sections of the country. 
The scandal of the act of 1818 was repeated. There was 
such a rush of applicants that it was thought incredible that 
there should be so many Revolutionary soldiers alive. The 
annual charge on the Treasury, instead of being $450,000, as 
had been estimated in the Senate, was four or five times that 
amount. The Senate ordered the publication of the list of 
pensioners, classified by States and counties, and the trans- 
mission of each State's list to its courts of record. 2 Thought- 
ful men began to question the moral and political effect of 
the whole pension system of the United States. Upon a 
resolution to extend the law of 1832 to those who had fought 
in Indian wars, Mr. Bouldin of Virginia said in the House of 
Representatives, on December 27, 1833, that "the practical 
effects of the system had been to discourage private industry, 
and lead a large portion of the people of the United States 
to look to the Treasury as the unfailing spring from which 
they were to receive every good. The poor, instead of being 

1 For full regulations under the Act of 1832, see Executive Documents^ 2d Sess., 
25th Cong., 1837-1838, v, no. 118, 84-91. 

a Senate Journal, 1st Sess., 23d Cong., 1833-1834, 404. 


relieved in their own neighborhoods, were pensioned on the 
United States." x 

In the fall of 1834, most startling frauds under the act of 
1832 came to light. Numerous indictments for perjury and 
forgery in the prosecution of pension claims were found at 
the session of the federal court in western Virginia, and many 
of the accused were said to have fled to Texas. 2 In Vermont, 
the Government was swindled out of an amount estimated at 
from forty, to two or three hundred thousand dollars through 
payments to fictitious pensioners. 3 Here the frauds were 
perpetrated by Robert Temple, formerly pension agent, 
president of the Bank of Rutland, and a man of great wealth 
and prominence in the State. Alarmed at the prospective 
publication of the pension list, he went to Washington, and 
attempted to bribe a clerk to alter the list in order to con- 
ceal his crimes. The clerk disclosed the affair to his supe- 
riors, and steps were taken to secure further evidence in the 
matter. Temple, learning that he was about to be arrested, 
committed suicide at his home in Vermont. Other frauds 
were discovered in Kentucky and New York. 

These disclosures received the attention of the Commis- 
sioner of Pensions in his annual report presented on Novem- 
ber 7, i834. 4 He said the most daring and iniquitous frauds 
had been discovered to have been perpetrated by men of 
high standing in society, whose official stations and respecta- 
bility placed them far above suspicion. In every such case 
which had come to the knowledge of the Department, steps 
had been taken to punish the offenders. Prosecutions, in 
some instances, had been successful, and terminated in the 
confinement of the criminals in State prisons. In other 

1 Cong. Debates, vol.x, Part ii, 1833-1834, 2245. 
* Nile's Register, xlvii, 97, 147. 

3 Ibid., 105-106. (Extracts from several current newspapers.) 

4 Executive Documents, 2d Sess., 23rd Cong., 1834-1835, i, no. 2, 273-280. 

265] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 47 

cases, they had fled from justice. Wherever there was a 
prospect of recovering money improperly paid, a suit had 
been commenced. 

The following extract from the Commissioner's report 
shows the bold character of the frauds : 

"It has been ascertained that papers have been presented at this 
Department purporting to contain proof of Revolutionary service, 
taken in open court, bearing the official seal of the clerk of the 
court, and duly certified by him, when, in fact, the persons in whose 
behalf the claims were made, never had any but an imaginary exist- 
ence. In some instances, the claims have been admitted, and money 
has been paid. In other cases, money has been paid to a period after 
the time when the pensioners died ; and this last mentioned descrip- 
tion of fraud was effected by means of falsifying the certificates of 
a clerk of a court of record." 

After giving a detailed description of the way in which the 
frauds were in some particular instances perpetrated, the 
Commissioner recommended the appointment of officers in 
each State and territory " for the purpose of examining in 
in person all pensioners and applicants for pensions." He 
reported that there were 27,978 pensioners on the rolls under 
the act of 1832, and that the amount sent to agents in 1834 
for payments under this act was about $2,325,000. The 
whole national pension roll contained about 43,000 names. 

The pension frauds were further discussed in the annual 
report of the Secretary of War, 1 and in the President's mes- 
sage of December, 1834." Secretary Cass pointed out that, 
as these disclosures had been the result of accident, it was 
impossible to judge to what extent frauds might have been 
committed. President Jackson recommended an actual in- 
spection of the pensioners in each State. The object of this 
inspection should be twofold, to look into the original justice 

1 Executive Documents, 2d Sess., 23d Cong., 1834-1835,!, no. 2, 36-38. 
/</., 18-19. 


of the claims, and to ascertain, in all cases, whether the 
claimant was living, and this by actual personal inspection. 
Notwithstanding these recommendations, Congress took no 
measures to bring about a reform of the pension system. 

The expenditures of the United States for Revolutionary 
and other pensions, from the beginning of the Federal Govern- 
ment to September 30, 1834, are shown by a report of the 
Secretary of the Treasury to have been something over 
$33,ioo,ooo. 1 Up to the close of 1833, the amount was 
about $29,600,000. The States which received most largely 
of this latter amount rank as follows : New York, $6, 1 86,000 : 
Massachusetts, $3,331,000; Pennsylvania, $2,644,000; 
Maine, $2,115,000; Connecticut, $1,942,000; Vermont, $i,- 
923,000; New Hampshire, $1,697,000, and Virginia, $i,- 
649,000. A study of these figures will show why the most 
earnest opposition to lavish pension laws came from the 

Thus far in our study of Revolutionary pension legislation, 
we have found scarcely any provision for the widows or 
children of deceased soldiers. By the resolution of August 
24, 1780, half pay for seven years was granted to the 
widows or orphans of such Revolutionary officers as had 
died or should die in the service, but the widows of non- 
commissioned officers and soldiers were not included in the 
benefits of this measure. The resolution expired before the 
inauguration of the Federal Government, but was renewed 
for two years by the act of March 23, I792. 3 

With the exception of sundry provisions for the payment 
of pension money, accrued and unpaid at the death of pen- 
sioners, to their widows, children or legal representatives, 
there was no general legislation for the benefit of the widows 
of Revolutionary officers or soldiers from 1792 to 1836. At 

1 Executive Documents, 2d Sess., 23d Cong., 1834-1835, iii, no. 89, 32. 
U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 243. 

267] REVOLUTIONARY, 1789-1878 . 49 

intervals, propositions were made for the granting of pen- 
sions to Revolutionary widows, but none were successful 
until the passage of the act of July 4, 1836.' The third 
section of this law provided that if any Revolutionary soldier, 
who would have been entitled to a pension under the act of 
June 7, 1832, had died, leaving a widow whose marriage 
took place before the expiration of his last period of service, 
such widow, so long as she remained unmarried, should be 
entitled to receive the pension which might have been al- 
lowed to her husband, if living at the time the act was 
passed. In applications under this act, the Secretary of War 
was to adopt such forms of evidence as the President should 

The act of 1836 was the first of a long series of laws for 
the benefit of Revolutionary widows. These grew more and 
more liberal as the years passed by. To follow the intrica- 
cies of this legislation might involve us in some confusion. 
We may say, in short, that provision was first made for those 
widows who married during the Revolution, then for those who 
married prior to 1794, later for those who married prior to 
1800, and finally for all Revolutionary widows, regardless of 
the date of marriage. 2 The pensions granted to widows 
were to continue during widowhood, and, in amount, were 
the same as those to which their husbands would have been 
entitled under the existing laws, if living. 

There yet remain to be considered a few minor Revolu- 
tionary pension measures. The act of April I, 1864, granted 
one hundred dollars additional annual pension to each of the 
surviving soldiers of the Revolution then on the pension 
rolls. 3 By November of that year seven of the number who 
were the intended recipients of this special bounty had died 
at an average age of about one hundred years, and but five 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, v, 127. 

2 Ibid., x, 154 and 616. Ibid., xiii, 39. 


were still living. 1 For the benefit of these five, Congress 
passed the private act of February 27, 1865, granting each 
of them a gratuity of three hundred dollars annually during 
his natural life, in addition to the pensions already being 
paid them according to law. 2 

By June 30, 1867, all the Revolutionary soldiers on the 
pension rolls had died, but, during the following fiscal year, 
two other Revolutionary soldiers were pensioned by special 
act at $500 per annum. Daniel F. Bakeman, the last survi- 
vor, died on April 5, 1869. On June 30, 1869, the names of 
887 Revolutionary widows were still borne on the rolls, al- 
though the actual number living was without doubt some- 
what less on account of unreported deaths. 3 Some addi- 
tional provisions for Revolutionary widows were made in acts 
of February 18, 1867, July 27, 1868, and March 9, 1878, but 
these were entirely unimportant in their results. 4 

From the first resolution of August, 1776, to the legisla- 
tion of March, 1878, we have reviewed over a century of 
Revolutionary pension laws. In the history of those laws, 
there has been a constant development of new and more lib- 
eral principles. At first, invalid pension provisions were 
made. These were broadened and extended until the law of 
1818 introduced a new principle by granting pensions based 
on service and indigence. Then came the pure service pen- 
sion law of 1832. Later, widows' pensions were granted to 
those who had married during the progress of the war. As 
more liberal tendencies prevailed, the time before which mar- 
riage must have occurred was extended to 1794, then to 
1800, and finally all limitation was abolished. With respect 
to this alone of our wars, the complete effects of all pension 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions, 1864. 

* U. S. Statutes at Large, xiii, 597. 

See Reports of the Commissioner of Pensions, 1867, 1868, 1869. 

4 U. S. Statutes at Large, xiv, 566; xv. 235; xx, 27. 

269] RE VOL UTI ONAR y > 

legislation have been practically realized. The report of 
Commissioner of Pensions J. H. Baker for 1874 gives us 
statistics upon which may be based a summary of these 
effects. 1 

In this report the number of soldiers serving in the Rev- 
olutionary War is placed at 289,715, although, considering 
the inadequacy of the records, this estimate cannot be more 
than approximately correct. Of these, the number pen- 
sioned for service was 57,623, of whom 20,485 were pen- 
sioned under the act of 1818, 1,200 under the act of 1828, 
33,425 under the act of 1832, and the remainder under 
minor and special acts. The manner of keeping the records 
during the early years of the Federal Government makes it 
impossible to state the number of Revolutionary soldiers who 
were granted invalid pensions for actual disability. There 
were probably not more than two or three thousand of such 
persons. The entire number of Revolutionary soldiers pen- 
sioned by the Federal Government is probably not far 
from 60,000. The total amount of pensions paid to such 
soldiers from 1818 to 1869, when the last survivor died, was 
$46,178,000. The amount paid to Revolutionary invalids 
prior to 1818 was about $2,500,000, so that the total pay- 
ments of pensions to Revolutionary soldiers may be said to 
roughly approximate $49,000,000. 

Under the general laws from July 4, 1836, to June 30, 
1874, there were pensioned 39,295 Revolutionary widows. 
Of these, 544^ were married to the deceased soldier prior 
to the termination of the war, 28,837 prior to 1794, 1,242 
between 1794 and 1800, and 3,750 after 1800. If we take 
into consideration the widows of Revolutionary officers who 

lr The Reports of the Commissioners of Pensions are published in several forms 
and with varying pagination. This reference may be found in the House Execu- 
tive Documents, 2& Sess.,43rd Cong., 1874-1875, Report of the Secretary of the 
Interior, i, 667-668. 


received the seven years' half pay, the widows who were 
pensioned by special acts, and the few widows pensioned 
after 1874, the entire number of Revolutionary widows pen- 
sioned may be estimated at over 40,000. The total amount 
paid to these widows from 1836 to 1874 was $19,604,000. 
Making allowance for the early half pay to officers' widows, 
and for the payments since 1874, the total payments to 
Revolutionary widows amount to about $20,000,000. Thus 
the total cost to the Federal Government for pensions to sol- 
diers of the Revolution and their widows has been about 
$69,000,000, exclusive of the cost of the administration of 
the pension laws. We are now spending more than twice 
that amount every year for pensions to the soldiers of the 
Civil War and their dependent relatives. 

In considering the statistics of the pension cost of the 
Revolutionary War, it must be remembered that service 
pensions were not granted until thirty-five years after the 
close of the war, that widows' pensions were practically not 
granted until fifty-three years after the close of the war, that 
the invalid pension provisions were quite restricted, that 
there were no pensions to dependent fathers, mothers, sis- 
ters and brothers, and that there were pensioned by general 
law only a few orphan children of officers, and by special 
act, a few aged daughters of soldiers. Under our present 
pension system the cost of a war of equal magnitude would 
be vastly greater. Indeed, we may confidently expect that 
the cost of paying pensions on account of our recent brief 
War with Spain will, in a very few years, amount to more 
than the cost of executing the Revolutionary pension laws 
of over a century. 



THE provisions of national pension legislation enacted on 
account of military services rendered between 1789 and 
1861 may be conveniently classified under five headings. 
They were intended to benefit ( I ) the regular army and mis- 
cellaneous bodies of militia and volunteers, (2) those who 
served on board vessels of the navy and privateers, (3) the 
soldiers of the War of 1812, (4) of the various Indian Wars, 
and (5) of the Mexican War. These classes, however, can- 
not be sharply differentiated. Although there was a dis- 
tinct body of navy pension legislation, which requires a 
separate treatment, the benefits of that legislation were very 
largely conferred on sailors who served in the War of 1812. 
So also the pension provisions for the soldiers of the regular 
army had force while they were serving in the War of 1812, 
the Mexican War and the Indian wars, except in so far as 
those provisions were superseded by particular legislation 
enacted for the war in question. Some of the laws, which 
we are to consider in this chapter, are of quite recent date, 
but they have reference to services rendered prior to 1861. 

I. Provisions for the Regular Army and Volunteers 
Beginning with the act of April 30, 1790, to regulate the 
military establishment of the United States, pension pro- 
visions of this class were quite numerous, but in the aggre- 
gate of small importance. Laws fixing the military peace 
establishment, or raising volunteers or militia for various 
purposes, commonly included a section dealing with the 

271] 53 


matter of pensions. Until 1816, the invalid pension rate 
for officers was not to exceed one-half of the monthly pay, 
and for non-commissioned officers and privates not to ex- 
ceed five dollars per month. The act of April 24, 1816, 
however, increased the allowance for non-commissioned 
officers and privates to eight dollars per month, and also 
increased the rate for the lower grades of commissioned 
officers. 1 In cases of partial disability, a proportionate 
allowance was made. For many years, the only provision 
for widows and orphans was a grant of half pay for five 
years to the widows, or children under sixteen years of age, 
of commissioned officers in the troops of the United States, 
dying in the service in consequence of wounds received. 
These provisions were based upon sections of the act of 

\March 16, 1802, which was the fundamental law for regular 
army pensions until the time of the Civil War. 2 After 

>xl86i, regulars were included under the Civil War legisla- 

Prior to the Civil War, when bodies of militia or volun- 
teers were raised for special service, the provisions of the act 
of 1802 were frequently extended tp such forces. In time 
of war the widows and orphans of private soldiers of both 
regular army and militia were usually allowed half pay for 
five years in the same manner as the widows and orphans of 
commissioned officers. Upon its expiration, this half pay 
was often continued from time to time. Eventually, the act 
of June 3, 1858, granted to all those surviving widows and 
minor children, who had been allowed five years' half pay 
under the provisions of any previous general law, a con- 
tinuance of such half pay, to commence from the date of 
the last payment. This pension was to be paid to widows 
during life, and where there was no widow, or in case of her 

1 U, S. Statutes at Large, Hi, 296. * Ibid., ii, 132. 

273] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 55 

death or remarriage, to the minor children while under the 
age of sixteen years. 

2. Navy and Privateer Pension Funds 
While pension laws in the United States have applied, to 
a large extent, to army and navy alike, there was developed / 
early in our history a separate pension system applicable to 
the navy alone. This was administered apart from the gen- 
eral pension system, and requires a distinct treatment. The 
navy pension laws were for the most part concerned with 
the formation, administration and use of the funds known as 
the navy and privateer pension funds. 

From the establishment of a naval armament in 1791 up 
to about 1800, disability pension provisions were made for 
the officers, marines and seamen of the navy in the same 
manner and at the same rate as for the regular army. The 
acts of March 2, 1799, and April 23, 1800, for the govern- 
ment of the navy of the United States, provided for a navy 
pension fund, which was to be made up of the Government's 
share of money accruing from the sale of prizes taken at sea 
by vessels of the navy. 1 This fund was to supply half pay- 
pensions for life, or during disability, to all disabled officers 
and men of the navy. If it should prove insufficient for the 
purpose, the public faith was pledged to make up the defi- 
ciency. The fund was placed under the management and 
direction of the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of the 
Treasury and the Secretary of War. These commissioners 
were required to present an annual report of their operations 
to Congress. 

It was not until after the outbreak of the War of 1812 
with Great Britain that this fund became of much import- 
ance. At the close of 1813, the annual outlay for pensions 
was about $11,300, and the fund itself amounted to $329, - 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, i, 709; ii, 53. 



ooo. It was rapidly increased by the Government's share of 
prizes taken in the existing war, and the income of the fund 
was much in excess of the demands upon it. 1 

Prior to the War of 1812, only invalid pensions were paid 
from the navy pension fund. By acts of 1813 and 1814, 
half pay pensions for five years were granted to widows and 
orphans of those who should die by reason of wounds re- 
ceived in the line of duty in the navy. Between 1817 and 
1824, the same allowance was made in cases where the death 
of the officer or seaman occurred "in consequence of disease 
contracted or of casualties or injuries received, while in the 
line of duty." This provision produced too great demands 
upon the fund and was repealed in 1824. As they expired 
from time to time, the half pay pensions for five years were 
usually renewed for a like term. After 1813, the laws grant- 
ing and renewing pensions to widows and orphans were nu- 
merous and complicated, but not of sufficient importance to 
warrant a detailed account of them. 

The history of the navy pension fund is not without its 
frauds and scandals. In their report for 1815, the commis- 
sioners complained of the difficulty of collecting arrearages 
of prize money, and of securing a punctual and faithful ac- 
countability on the part of those officers who were charged 
with the prosecution and sale of prizes. Congress soon after 
passed the act of April 16, 1816, which made detailed pro- 
vision for the collection and payment into the navy pension 
fund of the Government's share of prize money, and fur- 
nished means to enforce obedience to the law on the part of 
negligent or dishonest officials. In 1832 the Secretary of 
the Navy was made sole manager of the fund. The prop- 
erty of the fund was to be in the custody of the Treasurer of 
the United States, and the Secretary of the Navy was di- 
rected to invest the cash balance on hand and all money that 

1 American State Papers, Naval Affairs,!, 298, 381-382; iii, 535. 

275] SER VICE BE T WEEN I78< ? AND l8()I 5 7 

might arise to the fund in stock of the bank of the United 

At this point we may consider some statistics of the man- 
agement and operations of the fund from the close of 1813 
down to January i, 1832. The amount of the fund at the 
close of 1813 was $329,000. From that time to the close 
of 1831, there was paid into it from the sale of prizes $452,- 
ooo. During the same period it received in interest and 
dividends on stock $822,000, and $584,000 was paid out for 
pensions. On January i, 1832, the fund owned about 
$1,000,000 in stocks, less than $100,000 being in various 
bank stocks. It had suffered a loss of about $100,000 by 
the failure of the Columbia Bank. On November i, 1835, 
the capital amounted to $1,160,000, but, in consequence of 
ill-advised laws of 1834 and 1 837, charges upon the fund be- 
came too great to be met from the current income. The se- 
curities were gradually sold, and the fund was finally ex- 
hausted in 1842. From that time until the Civil War, navy 
pensions were paid by annual appropriations made by Con- 
gress. 1 

The laws establishing the navy pension fund remained 
upon the statute books, and again came into existence dur- 
ing the Civil War. In the division of this work that has 
been adopted, the latter part of the history of the fund 
should in strictness be given in the chapters on Civil War 
pensions, but it will be included here for the sake of con- 
tinuity of treatment. With the opening of the war, large 
sums of money began to accrue to the Government from the 
sale of prizes taken at sea. Congress gave express sanction 
to the re-establishment of the fund by the act of July 17, 
i862. 2 By October i, 1864, Commissioner of Pensions 

1 On the management and operations of the navy pension fund, see American 
State Papers, Naval Affairs, i, 380-395; iii, 528-530; iv, 44-45, 818-825, 863. 

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, xii, 607. 


Barrett reported that the navy pension fund amounted to 
about $6,056,000, of which more than $4,000,000 had been 
paid into the fund during the year preceding that date. 
This sum, invested at six per cent., would give an annual in- 
come of some $363,000. The total annual rate of the navy 
pensions of all classes on June 30, 1864, was only $179,000. 
In view of the heavy annual demand for the payment of 
army pensions, Commissioner Barrett proposed that a cer- 
tain proportion of the money accruing from the sales of 
abandoned or confiscated property or land should be simi- 
larly used for the creation of an army pension fund. His 
suggestion was commended to the consideration of Congress 
by the Secretary of the Interior, but not acted upon. 1 

By the act of 1862, only navy invalid pensions were 
chargeable upon the fund. These were paid at the regular 
rates established by Civil War pension laws, and from the 
office of the Commissioner of Pensions. Congress, by res- 
olution of July I, 1864, directed the Secretary of the Navy 
to invest the fund in registered securities of the United 
States. Its nominal income was greatly increased by the 
exchange of the coin interest on these securities for legal 
currency of the United States at the existing rate of premium 
on gold. 2 The income thus created was so far in excess of 
all demands that Congress, in 1866, charged upon the fund 
A the payment of pensions to navy widows and dependent 
relatives. 3 By 1867 the receipts from prize money and sur- 
plus income had increased the capital amount to $I3>~ 
000,000, and there was an uninvested balance of $229,000. 

In an act of March 2, 1867, Congress provided for the 
payment from the navy pension fund of a half pay allowance 
to seamen or marines who have served twenty years, and 

1 Regarding the management of the fund, see annual Reports of the Commis- 
sioner of Pensions, 1863, 1864, 1865 and 1867. 

2 U. S.. Statutes at Large, xiii, 414. 8 Ibid., xiv., 2-3. 

277] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 59 

are, from age or infirmity, disabled from sea service. This 
allowance is in lieu of being provided with a home in the 
United States Naval Asylum at Philadelphia. The same law 
authorized the Secretary of the Navy to make from the fund 
an allowance to disabled persons who had served in the 
navy or marine corps for a period of not less than ten years. 1 
The naval appropriation act for 1870 also charged upon the 
income of the fund the future support of the Naval Asylum 
at Philadelphia. 2 

At the close of the war, the principal of the navy pension 
fund invested in United States bonds was $14,000,000. By 
act of July 23, 1868, the rate of interest on the fund was re- 
duced to three per cent, per annum in lawful money. 3 In 
consequence of the great increase of pension expenditures, 
due to the Civil War, the income of the fund has been since 
1870 inadequate to pay all navy pensions, and a provision of 
the act of 1862, pledging the public faith to make up the 
deficiency, has been brought into operation. In 1899 the 
fund was about the same in amount as at the end of the 
Civil War, but it will presumably be somewhat increased by 
the investment of the prize money received by the Govern- 
ment on account of the recent War with Spain. 

In the present condition of the navy pension fund, the in- 
come available for the payment of navy pensions is less than 
ten per cent of the actual payments made in connection with 
that branch of the service. 4 This is shown by the following 
statistics : 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xiv, 515-517. These provisions were enacted to carry 
out the clause of the eleventh section of the Act of July 17, 1862, directing that the 
surplus income from the navy pension fund " be applied to the making of further 
provision for the comfort of disabled officers, seamen and marines." The allow- 
ances are in addition to pensions to which the persons concerned may be entitled 
under other laws. 

2 Ibid., xv, 277. 3 Ibid., xv, 170. 
4 Report of Commissioner of Pensions for 1899, 105. 


Payments for Available 

Navy Pensions. income of fund. 

In i89S #3,655.485 #339,535 

In 1896 3,588,528 340,685 

In 1897 3,635,802 340,275 

In 1 898 3,7 2 3,932 341,275 

In 1 899 3,683,794 342,275 

As was previously noted, a part of the income of the navy 
pension fund is used for the support of the Naval Asylum at 

A privateer pension fund was inaugurated by the act of 
June 26, 1812, but this was exhausted at the end of about 
twenty-five years. The provisions for its establishment and 
administration, however, still remain on the statute book. 
The fund consisted of two per cent of the net amount of the 
prize money accruing to privateers of the United States. 1 
Pensions were paid, under supervision of the Secretary of the 
Navy, to those who were wounded and disabled on board 
the private armed vessels of the United States in engage- 
ments with the enemy, and also to the widows and orphans 
of such as died by reason of their wounds. The fund was 
managed in much the same way as the navy pension fund, 
and at one time amounted to about $2OO,ooo. 2 Demands 
upon the fund being too great to be satisfied from the in- 
come, it was gradually decreased by the sale of stocks and 
finally exhausted about 1838. The few pensions paid from 
it were stopped. Congress later made provisions for the re- 
newal of the privateer pensions and for their payment from 
the ordinary pension appropriations. 

3 . War of 1812 Pensions. 

In the spring of 1812, various acts for the raising of troops 
included the same invalid pension provisions as had been 
made for the regular army by the act of 1802. In 1816, the 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, ii, 759. 

3 American State Papers, Naval Affairs, i, 666-667. 

279] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND i8gi fa 

rate of a full pension for private soldiers was increased from 
five to eight dollars per month, and there was also an increase 
in the rates of pensions paid to the lower grades of commis- 
sioned officers. Half pay pensions for five years were 
granted to widows and orphans, but these allowances, in 
course of time, expired. However, they were eventually 
renewed, and, before the Civil War, pensions had been 
granted for life to all surviving War of 1812 widows, whose 
husbands had died as the result of wounds received or of 
disability incurred in service. Pension rates for the War of 
1812 were, made equal to Civil War rates by some of the 
earlier pension acts passed on behalf of the latter war. 

Service pensions on account of the War of 1812 were not 
granted until 1871. With the lapse of time, the number of 
invalid pensioners had become very small, and a lively and 
long-continued agitation for service pensions finally met 
with success. The Revolutionary act of 1832 was appealed 
to as a precedent, and thus the predictions made by senators 
in the debate on that law were fulfilled. 

The act of February 14, 1871, was one of numerous bills 
on the subject proposed to Congress. In the debates, the 
principal feature was the discussion of a so-called " pauper 
clause," requiring proof of indigence on the part of appli- 
cants for pensions. This would have accorded with the 
principle of the Revolutionary pension act of 1818. A ma- 
jority, however, was found in favor of a simple service pen- 
sion act without property qualification. There was the usual 
underestimate of the number of applicants and amount of 
expenditure involved. 

As finally approved, the act of 1871 granted pensions to 
all surviving soldiers or sailors of the War of 1812, who 
served sixty days and were honorably discharged, or who 
received personal mention by Congress for specific services 
in the war. Applicants were required to have been loyal 


during the Civil War and to take an oath to support the 
Constitution. Pensions were also granted to the surviving 
widows of those who had served as above, provided that the 
widows had been married prior to the treaty of peace and 
had not re- married. The rate allowed was eight dollars per 
month during life, and proof was to be made under rules 
prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior. 1 

The effect of the law of 1871 was immediately felt. At 
its passage, there were few survivors of the War of 1812 on 
the pension rolls. By October 13, 1871, the Commissioner 
of Pensions reported that some 32,000 claims had been re- 
ceived under the law, and that a new class of pensioners had 
been established. Of the claims received, about 25,000 
were those of survivors and 7,000 those of widows. 3 The 
number of widows' applications was greatly limited by the 
proviso with regard to the date of marriage. Statistical 
information with regard to the working of this act will be 
furnished later. 

Hardly had the act of 1871 become law before numerous 
bills were introduced in the interest of greater liberality. A 
particular effort was made to remove the restriction on 
widows' pensions. The desired ends were at length attained 
in the act of March 9, 1878, which received commanding 
majorities in both House and Senate. 3 This measure was 
extravagant in its terms, opening the way to the pension roll 
for widows unborn when the War of 1812 was fought, and for 
soldiers who had seen only fourteen days' service. Congress 
endorsed the proposition put forward in the debates that 
" the affectionate ministrations of a devoted wife during the 
declining years of an infirm and too often destitute and suf- 
fering soldier should receive some recognition on the part of 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xvi, 411. 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions for 1871. 

3 U. S. Statutes at Large, xx, 27. 

28 1 ] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 3 

the Government created and established by their (sic) valor 
and services in the field." Besides shortening the necessary 
length of these valorous services to a term of fourteen days, 
the requirement of loyalty during the Civil War was abol- 

Under the act of 1878, pensions were granted to all those 
persons in any branch of the service, who served for four- 
teen days in the War of 1812, or who were in any engage- 
ment and were honorably discharged, and to the surviving 
widows of all such persons. Pensions to all ranks v. ere at the 
rate of eight dollars per month during life. It was provided 
that re-marriage should terminate widows' pensions. Record 
evidence of service and honorable discharge were not re- 
quired, but applicants might establish their claim by any 
other satisfactory testimony. Provision was made for the 
restoration to the rolls of all War of 1812 pensioners who 
had been removed for disloyalty during the Civil War. 
Where pensioners had thus been stricken from the rolls and 
had died without restoration, their widows were given the 
right to make claim for a pension under the new act. 

At the time of the passage of the act of 1878, claims under 
the law of 1871 were nearly exhausted. The new measure 
resulted in the presentation of about 25,000 claims between 
March 9 and October 15, 1878, on account of a war which 
had ended sixty-three years ago. Survivors presented only 
about one- seventh of these claims. This condition of affairs 
was in marked contrast to that under the act of 1871, when 
the great majority of claims was by survivors. The change 
was due to the removal of the restriction on the date of 
marriage and also to the great mortality among the survivors, 
who had all reached an exceedingly advanced age. 1 

There has been no further pension legislation on account 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions for 1878. 



of the War of 1812, although the act of March 19, 1886, 
operated to raise the pensions of widows of that war to twelve 
dollars per month. On June 30, 1899, there was on the 
pension roll one surviving soldier of the War of 1812, aged 
ninety-nine years. At the same date, there were 1998 widows 
of this war on the rolls. 1 Some of these widows will prob- 
ably be found among the nation's pensioners considerably 
more than a century after the conclusion of the war. 

The operation of the War of 1812 pension laws of 1871 
and 1878 is shown in the tabular statement on the opposite 
page. 2 It is not possible to give separate statistics regarding 
this class of pensioners for the years prior to 1871. At that 
date, the number of such pensioners was inconsiderable. 

4. Indian War Pensions. 

In the course of its history, the United States Government 
has had frequent conflicts with hostile Indian tribes. Some 
of these disturbances were of sufficient importance to be 
termed wars. It has been uniformly the custom to extend 
the benefits of existing pension laws to the soldiers of these 
wars, and also to the widows and orphans of the slain. An 
early law providing for those engaged in fighting hostile In- 
dians was that of April 10, 1812, for the relief of the officers 
and soldiers who served in General Harrison's campaign on 
the Wabash. From that time down, the benefits of the 
pension laws were extended from time to time to those en- 
gaged in putting down Indian insurrections in Florida and 
elsewhere. At the time of the Civil War, the survivors and 
widows of soldiers in the various Indian wars stood on the 
same footing as to pensions as those of the War of 1812. 

Service pensions were not granted on account of the In- 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions for 1899. 

2 Compiled from statistics in Reports of Commissioner of Pensions. 

283] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 


No. of Pensioners on Rolls. 












$2.S^ Qf 

$ril QO 

$0 066 CK 





* O JJ J 


fp^ A X ,WW 





































































3 J ,795 













i9,5 12 










































8,6 10 















6,8 1 6 





































389,73L 95 





















[28 4 

dian wars until the passage of the act of July 27, 1892.* 
This act included in its benefits those " who served for thirty 
days in the Black Hawk War, the Creek War, the Cherokee 
disturbances, or the Florida War with the Seminole Indians' 1 
between 1832 and 1842, and were honorably discharged. 
It also included such others as had been personally named 
in any resolution of Congress for any specific service in said 
Indian wars, even though their term of service had been less 
than thirty days. The surviving widows of the above per- 
sons received the benefit of the act, provided that they had 
not remarried. Pensions were at the rate of eight dollars 
per month during life. Service and honorable discharge 
might be proved by any satisfactory evidence, and loyalty 
during the rebellion was not required. The following table 
gives the statistics of Indian war pensions, beginning with 
the fiscal year ending June 30, 1893 : 


No. Pensioners on Rolls. 


















3> I0 4 









6,66 1 






















5 . Mexican War Pensions. 

The act of May 13, 1846, declared the existence of a state 
of war between the Republic of Mexico and the United 

1 U. S. Statutes at Largf,x\vii, 281. 

* Compiled from Reports of Commissioner of Pensions. 

285] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 fy 

States, and also authorized the President to raise volunteers 
for the prosecution of the war. 1 A section of the act prom- 
ised to those volunteers, who should be wounded or other- 
wise disabled in the service, the same benefits as were pro- 
vided for regular troops. Between 1848 and 1850, a num- 
ber of acts were passed granting five years' half pay to the 
widows and orphans of those who had died or should die as 
the result of wounds received or disease contracted in ser- 
vice during the war. The act of June 3, 1858, extended the 
half pay of widows for life, and that of orphans until they 
reached the age of sixteen years. 2 At the time of the Civil 
War, pensions were granted for service in the Mexican War 
on the same basis as for the War of 1812 and Indian wars. 
The earlier Civil War pension laws increased the rates for 
all the " old wars" to a level with those paid on account of 
the Civil War. 

Immediately after the passage in 1871 of the War of 1812 
service pension bill, an agitation was begun in favor of a 
similar measure applying to the Mexican War. The ques- 
tion was long before Congress, and bills on the subject 
several times passed one house or the other. Finally, a 
limited service pension act became law on January 29, i88/. 3 
This directed the Secretary of the Interior to grant pensions 
to those persons " who being duly enlisted, actually served 
sixty days with the army or navy of the United States in 
Mexico, or on the coasts or frontier thereof, or en route 
thereto, in the war with that nation, or were actually engaged 
in a battle in said war, and were honorably discharged, and 
to such other officers and soldiers and sailors as may have 
been personally named in any resolution of Congress for any 
specific services in said war, and the surviving widows of such 
officers and enlisted men." 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, ix, 9. J Ibid., xi, 309. * Ibid., xxiv, 371. 


Widows, to be eligible for pensions, must not have re- 
married. The law also requires that every person pensioned 
must be either sixty-two years of age, or subject to a dis- 
ability or dependency equivalent to some cause recognized 
by the pension laws of the United States as a sufficient reason 
for the allowance of a pension. Nor must the disability have 
been incurred by the applicant while voluntarily engaged in 
opposing the United States Government during the Civil 
War. The rate of pensions is eight dollars per month dur- 
ing life. The act does not apply to those already pensioned 
at the rate of eight dollars per month or more, and, as re- 
gards those receiving less than eight dollars per month, it 
applies only as to the difference between the existing pen- 
sion and eight dollars per month. Disloyalty during the 
Civil War is not a bar to a pension, but the act does not in- 
clude in its benefits any person while under the political dis- 
abilities imposed by the fourteenth amendment to the Con- 
stitution of the United States. 

By the act of January 5, 1893, the Secretary of the Interior 
was authorized to increase to twelve dollars per month, 
the allowance of such Mexican War survivors then on the 
rolls, as were wholly disabled for manual labor, and in such 
destitute circumstances that eight dollars per month was in- 
sufficient to provide them with the necessaries of life. 1 At the 
end of the fiscal year 1894, about 3,700 pensions had been 
increased under this provision. On June 30, 1899, out f 
9,204 survivors of the Mexican War, 5,027 were pensioned 
at eight dollars per month, 4,121 at twelve dollars per month, 
and the small remainder at rates in excess of twelve dollars 
per month. All widows were pensioned at eight dollars per 
month, with the exception of a few cases provided for by 
special act. 2 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xxvii, 413. J Reports of Commissioner of Pensions. 

i ; I 

287] SERVICE BETWEEN 1789 AND 1861 69 

A tabular statement of the operation of Mexican War 
pension laws since 1887 follows: 


No. of Pensioners on Rolls. 














































1 S> 21 5 


























2,235,7 2 3.82 


















I8 ,i55 

















THE operation of the pension laws enacted on account of 
our Civil War has invariably extended back to March 4, 
1 86 1, the date of the inauguration of the Lincoln adminis- 
tration. Hostilities began in the spring of 1861, but, when 
the fiscal year ended on June 30, they had not yet resulted 
in the addition of any new names to the pension roll. In 
July was fought the important battle of Bull Run, and, by 
November, Commissioner of Pensions Barrett reported that 
claims were being rapidly filed by disabled Union soldiers, 
and by the widows and orphans of the slain. In the absence 
of legislation entirely adequate to the emergency, it was 
some time before the effects of the war began to be felt in 
any large increase in the number of pensioners. 

Up to the beginning of the war, the United States Govern- 
ment had expended for military pensions about $90,000,000, 
and had granted 65,500,000 acres of bounty land in recog- 
nition of military services. The pension list at this time 
consisted of some 10,700 persons, of whom 63 were soldiers 
of the Revolution, and 2,728 the widows of such soldiers. 
The aggregate annual value of these pensions was $958,000, 
and the actual expenditure during the fiscal year ending 
June 30, 1 86 1, was $1,072,000.' Under the laws then in 
force, the number of pensioners was decreasing at the rate of 
five or six hundred each year. Seventy-five or eighty per- 
sons were proving more than sufficient to carry on the work 

1 For statistics see Report of Commissioner of Pensions, 1861. 
70 [288 

289] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 7! 

of the Pension Bureau. Normally, there would have been 
a gradual but constant decrease in the amount of the annual 
pension payment. The Civil War checked this tendency, 
and opened the way to an expenditure for military pensions 
unequaled in the history of any nation. 

At the opening of the war, the Bureau of Pensions soon 
found it necessary to adopt a policy with regard to the treat- 
ment of disloyal pensioners. An order issued before the semi- 
annual payment of September 4, 1861, required the oath of 
allegiance to be taken by pensioners before receiving their 
stipends. The pension agencies in the disloyal States were 
suspended, as were also the pensions of disaffected persons 
in loyal States. On June 30, 1862, the pensions of 2,073 
persons in the Southern States were reported as suspended, 
and, by the end of the war, the names of all the pensioners 
in the eleven Confederate States had been stricken from the 
rolls. After the close of hostilities, such as were able to 
prove their continued loyalty in act and sympathy through- 
out the war were restored to the pension list, and also re- 
ceived the arrears which had accrued since the last payment 
prior to the rebellion. Since 1862, the requirement of 
loyalty during the Civil War has been a fundamental prin- 
ciple of our pension laws, although exceptions have been 
made in the service pension acts passed on behalf of the 
soldiers of the " old wars," and in certain other cases. 1 

On April 15, 1861, three days after the firing on Fort 
Sumter, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling out 
seventy- five thousand militia, and also appointing an extra- 
ordinary session of Congress to convene on July 4. At this 
session, the act of July 22, 1861, was passed, authorizing the 
President to accept the services of not exceeding five hun- 
dred thousand volunteers. 2 Among the sections of this law 

1 The question of loyalty is discussed in the Reports of the Commissioner of Pen- 
sions for 1 86 1, 1862, 1865 and 1866. 
"' U. S. Statutes at Large, xii, 270. 


was one which provided that all volunteers under its pro- 
visions, who might be wounded or otherwise disabled in the 
service, should be entitled to the benefits conferred on per- 
sons disabled in the regular army. The widows or legal 
heirs of such as should die in the service were promised the 
sum of one hundred dollars, in addition to all arrears of pay 
and allowances. This provision may be said to have estab- 
lished at the very outset of the war the principle of invalid 
pensions for disabled Union soldiers. The promise of such 
pensions was without doubt an inducement offered to secure 
voluntary enlistments. 

The preceding provision did not apply to the soldiers 
called into service by Lincoln's proclamations of April 15 
and May 3, 1861. These men were engaged in the import- 
ant battle of Bull Run and in minor engagements, and, by 
tha fall of 1861, numerous claims on their behalf were re- 
ceived by the Pension Bureau. Old laws were found on the 
statute books which were deemed to warrant the allowance 
of many of these claims, but the uncertainties and discrep- 
ancies of existing provisions led the Commissioner of Pen- 
sions to ask for the prompt enactment of explicit and detailed 
legislation by Congress. 1 

The need of further legislation was emphasized in an 
opinion of Attorney-General Bates, prepared at the request 
of the Secretary of the Interior. 2 For provisions respecting 
invalid pensions the Attorney- General was compelled to go 
back to the old laws of 1802 and 1813, which were quite in- 
adequate. There was in his opinion no provision of law 
whereby pensions might be conferred upon the widows and 
children of such of the volunteers as might die or be killed 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions, 1861. Message and Documents, 1861- 
1862, Part i, 836. 

2 House Ex. Doc., vii, 1861-1862, no. 98. 

29 1 "] C/F7Z #^tf, 1861-1879 73 

in the service. 1 He earnestly recomended that the attention 
of Congress might be called to the propriety of enacting 
laws which might be easily understood, and which might 
comprehend all that the emergency required. 

By resolution of April I, 1862, the House of Representa- 
tives requested from the Attorney-General a copy of the 
preceding opinion. 2 Prompt steps were taken to secure 
adequate pension legislation. On April 30 " An act to grant 
pensions" was introduced into the House from the Com- 
mittee on Invalid Pensions. 3 The measure had been pre- 
pared after numerous meetings of the committee, and had 
received the approval of the Commissioner of Pensions. 
Speedy action was urged. Although amended in several 
respects, the bill met no serious opposition in either House 
or Senate, and was finally approved by the President on July 
14, 1862.4 

This law applied to army and navy alike, including 
regulars, volunteers and militia, and also the marine 
corps. It provided pensions for disability, which had been 
incurred since March 4, 1861, or should thereafter be in- 
curred, by reason of wounds received or disease contracted 
while in the service of the United States, and in the line of 
duty. The rates for total disability ranged according to 
rank from thirty dollars to eight dollars per month. The 
former amount was allowed to a lieutenant-colonel or officer 
of a higher grade in the army or marine corps, and to a 
captain, commander or officer of equal rank in the navy; 

1 The Department of Interior conformed to the Attorney-General's opinion by 
a decision excluding widows and orphans of deceased Union soldiers from the 
benefits conferred on those classes by previous army pension laws. House Ex* 
Doc., 38th Cong., 1864-1865, v, 654. 

8 Cong. Globe, 2d Sess., 37th Cong., 1861-1862, 1480. 

8 Ibid., Part ii, 1886. 

4 U. S. Statutes at Large, xii, 566-569. 


while the latter amount was granted to non-commissioned 
officers and privates in the army, and to petty officers and 
common sailors in the navy. Proportionate pensions were 
to be allowed in each rank for partial disability. Invalid 
pensions were to commence from the date of discharge in 
all cases in which the application should be filed within one 
year after that date. Otherwise the pension was to be paid 
from the date of filing the application. In all cases the pen- 
sions were to continue during the existence of the disability. 

To the widow, or if there were no widow, to the child or 
children under sixteen years of age, of any person dying, 
after March 4, 1861, by reason of any wound received or 
disease contracted, while in the service of the United States, 
and in the line of duty, the act granted the same pension as 
would have been allowed to the husband or father for total 
disability. This pension was to commence from the death 
of the husband or father, and to continue to the widow dur- 
her widowhood, or to the child or children until they sever- 
ally attained the age of sixteen years. 

Where a deceased officer or soldier left no widow or legiti- 
mate child, but a dependent mother, the mother was given 
the right to receive the pension which might have been al- 
lowed to a widow or child. By a re-marriage, the dependent 
mother forfeited the pension received on account of her son, 
nor could any mother receive at the same time more than 
one pension under the provisions of the act. Where the de- 
ceased soldier had left neither widow nor child nor mother,, 
but an orphan sister or sisters, under sixteen years of age, 
who were wholly or in part dependent upon him for support, 
the pension might go to such sister or sisters until they sev- 
erally attained the age of sixteen years. But the orphans 
were in no case to receive more than one pension under the 
law at the same time. Payment of pensions to any disloyal 
relatives or heirs of a deceased soldier was specifically for- 

293] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 75 

bidden, and the right to such payment was transferred to the 
loyal heirs, if there were any. 

The remaining sections of the act dealt with many admin- 
istrative details, and included provisions regulating attorneys' 
fees, imposing penalties for frauds by agents and attorneys, 
regulating the appointment and fees of examining surgeons, 
and authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to appoint a 
special agent to assist in the detection and prosecution of 
pension frauds. The last section repealed all previous en- 
actments inconsistent with the provisions of this law. 

This act of 1862 was epoch making. It became the fun- 
damental pension law for all claims arising out of service in 
the Civil War. Extending its operation backward to March 
4, 1 86 1, and forward indefinitely, it was by far the most lib- 
eral measure of the kind up to that time enacted by our 
Government. Two classes of dependent relatives heretofore 
unknown to our legislation mothers and orphan sisters 
were provided for, while the pensions to other classses, and 
particularly to widows and orphans, and to disabled seamen, 
were largely increased. Greater uniformity in the rates of 
army and navy pensions was also secured. By the terms of 
this law, we find the National Government, early in the war, 
explicitly committed not only to a grant of pensions to dis- 
abled Union soldiers, but also to a similar provision for the 
dependent relatives of those who should lose their lives in 
the service. 

In Congress, the act of 1862 was practically unopposed, 
and the exciting events of the time seem to have so en- 
grossed public interest that it met with but little attention in 
the country at large. We do, however, hear of "apprehen- 
sions in some quarters of an extravagant, if not insupporta- 
ble, annual burden resulting from the law." Commissioner 
Barrett thought these unwarranted, and expressed, in No- 
vember, 1862, the conviction that, "supposing the results of 


the war to be commensurate with what may reasonably be 
expected from the means employed, the total annual sum re- 
quired to carry out this law will in no year exceed $7,000,- 
ooo." x The unexpected duration of the war rendered this 
estimate entirely inadequate, as the Commissioner himself 
pointed out in his report for 1864. By June 30 of that year 
there were 51,135 pensioners, a much greater number than 
had ever before been on the rolls. Some 47,000 pensions 
had been allowed under the act of 1862, 21,000 to invalids, 
and 26,000 to widows, orphans and dependent relatives. 2 

The history of Civil War pension legislation is one of con- 
tinually increasing liberality on the part of Congress. This 
tendency was early manifested in the passage of the act of 
July 4, 1864, which introduced a new principle into our pen- 
sion legislation that of fixed rates for certain specific dis- 
abilities. 3 This system of special ratings has since had an 
astonishing and almost absurd development. Rates, rang- 
ing from twenty-four to one hundred dollars per month, are 
now fixed by law for about twenty specific disabilities, and, 
under authority conferred upon him, the Commissioner of 
Pensions has fixed rates for some fifty other disabilities. 
Total disability was in 1 862 understood to be inability to 
perform manual labor, and the pension was eight dollars 
per month. But this rate is now paid for " simple total dis- 
ability," and is the same as that for stiffening (anchylosis) 
of the wrist, loss of a thumb, or loss of the great and second 
toes. Inability to perform manual labor is now pensioned 
at thirty dollars per month.* 

The following official table exhibits in a concise form all of 

1 Report of Commissioner of Pensions, 1862. Message and Documents, 1862- 
1863, Part ii, 580-581. 
a Report of Commissioner of Pensions, 1864. 
3 U. S. Statutes at Large, xiii, 387-389. 
* Treatise on the Practice of the Pension Bureau, 1898, 122-125. 

295] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 77 

the rates established by law for specific disabilities from 1864 
to the present: 

Rates and Disabilities 
Specified by Law. 









From Mar. 3, 1883. 


From Aug. 4, 1886. 






". | From Mar. 4, 1890. 

Act of July 14,1892. ] 

From July 4, i 

From Mar. 3, 3 







Loss of both hands 
Loss of sight of both eyes . 












Loss of sight of one eye, the 
sight of the other lost be- 

Total disabilityin both hands 
Regular aid and attendance 






Periodical aid and attend- 

a ix 


Loss of an arm at shoulder 





2 4 





Loss of an arm at or above 
elbow, or a leg at or above 

Loss of a leg above the knee 
causing inability to wear 

Loss of one hand and one 

Total disabilityin one arm 


' 6 


Total disability in one hand 



Total disability in both feet 




Total disability in one hand 


Incapacity to perform man- 

Total deafness 

Sio > 

Disability equivalent to the 



* Seventy-two dollars from June 17, 1878, only where the rate was $50 under the Act of June 
18, 1874, and granted prior to June 16, 1880. First grade proper is $50, amended by the Act of 
March 4, 1890, which increases rate to $72. 

f From date of medical examination held after July 14, 1892. 

In his report for 1864, Commissioner of Pensions Barrett 
commented upon the development of the pension system 
under the acts of 1862 and 1864. He said: 

" No other nation has provided so liberally for its disabled sol- 
diers and seamen, or for the dependent relatives of the fallen. The 


Government has undertaken to make up, to a certain specified ex- 
tent, for the loss of health or members, when incurred strictly in its 
military or naval service, and to furnish regular pecuniary aid to the 
families of those whose lives are thus sacrificed. From this simple 
impulse of justice, manifesting itself in the war of independence, 
has sprung the entire system now expanding into proportions per- 
haps little anticipated in those early days. In place of laws for par- 
ticular emergencies, cautiously limited to retrospective action, we 
have now a statute which puts on an equal footing each arm of the 
service, embracing the future as well as the present in its scope, and 
providing for regulars, volunteers and militia alike." ! 

An act of March 3, 1865, broadened the construction of 
the act of 1862 in the interest of the children of deceased 
officers and soldiers. 2 Where a widow should die or marry 
without payment to her of any part of a pension to which 
she was entitled, it provided that the pension should go to 
the child or children under sixteen years of age, just as in 
cases where there was no widow. If the pension had been 
paid to the widow, the child or children were, in case of her 
death or remarriage, to succeed to the pension until they 
severally attained the age of sixteen years. 

The pension list continued to grow with ever increasing 
rapidity. By June 30, 1866, the number of pensioners on 
the rolls was 126,722, and the annual expenditure already 
amounted to $13,460,000. Notwithstanding the increasing 
demands upon the Treasury, the liberality of Congress con- 
tinued unchecked, and two increase acts became law in 

New rates for many specific disabilities were established by 
the act of June 6, i866. 3 These involved a substantial 
addition to the annual pension expenditure. The act of 

1 House Ex. Doc., 38th Cong., 1864-1865, v, 656. 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xiii, 499-500. * Ibid., xiv, 56. 

297] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 jg 

1862 was also amended so as to grant the benefits of the 
pension laws to orphan brothers under sixteen years of age 
as well as to orphan sisters, and to dependent fathers as well 
as mothers. This same act established regulations covering 
many minor questions arising in the administration of the 
pension laws. 

The second of the increase acts was that of July 25, I866. 1 
Its main object was the relief of widows who had large fam- 
ilies dependent upon them for support. Pensions of such 
widows were increased at the rate of two dollars per month 
for each child of the deceased soldier or sailor under the age 
of sixteen years. Where there was no widow living and en- 
titled to a pension, and there was more than one child, the 
children were granted a pension equal in amount to that 
which, under the circumstances, would have been allowed to 
a widow. 

The same law extended the provisions of the act of July 
14, 1862, and supplementary acts to the pensions under pre- 
vious laws, except Revolutionary pensions. This extension 
was afterward so construed as to limit its effect merely to the 
specific increase allowed to pensioners, and it was not recog- 
nized as making a new class of pensioners, or as placing, in 
every respect, all pensions, except Revolutionary, upon the 
basis of the acts in question. 2 

The passage of these two laws of 1866, together with the 
continued reception of original applications in numbers ex- 
ceeding expectations, nearly doubled the labors of the Pen- 
sion Bureau for the year ending June 30, 1867. Commis- 
sioner Barrett expressed a belief that no important exten- 
sion of the very liberal provisions of the pension laws would 
now be contemplated by Congress. In two years, about 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xiv, 230. 

2 House Ex. Doc., 4OthCong., 1867-1868, Report of Sec 1 y of Interior, \, 4-5. 


18,800 pensions were increased under the act of June 6, 
1866, and about 46,300 under the act of July 25, 1866.' 

The next important pension law was that of July 27, 1868, 
which easily passed both houses of Congress. 2 In explain- 
ing it to the Senate, Mr. Van Winkle said : 

" The whole object of the bill is to correct certain misconstructions 
in the law, supply some omissions in the law, and make other similar 
corrections * * * * in order to prevent such a flood of pension 
bills being thrown upon Congress as has been at this session. There 
have been misconstructions of the law at the Pension Office. The 
law in some cases is defective, perhaps, in a single word or two, 
which is now to be supplied, or some case of parallel nature to that 
mentioned in the law has not been mentioned." 3 

Mr. Van Winkle asserted that the bill, as it had been acted 
on, would reduce pensions on the whole, but from an ex- 
amination of its provisions it is difficult to see where the 
reduction came in. 

During the debate in the Senate, an amendment was 
offered to increase the pensions of the higher classes of army 
and navy officers. Senator Sherman of Ohio said in opposi- 

" It is a very ungracious task to object to a pension of any 
amount to a person who has been in the military service ; but I 
submit to the Senate whether it is wise now, in the present condi- 
tion of the public business, at this stage of the session, the attention 
of the Senate having scarcely been called to this bill, to raise the 
pensions of any portion of the army or navy. At a time when we 
are endeavoring to lower all the expenses of the government ; when 
we have reduced all our appropriations ; when we have thrown off 
$100,000,000 of taxes, and yet when taxes are still very burdensome 
on our people ; when the pension fund now is $33,000,000 (?) a 

1 Reports of Commissioner of Pensions, 1867 and 1868. 

2 U. S. Statutes at Large, xv, 235-237. 

3 Cong. Globe, 2d Sess, 4Oth Cong., 1867-1868, Part v, 4228-4230. 


299] CIVIL WAR, 1861-2879 8! 

year twice as much as any nation in the world ever paid before I 
ask whether it is worth while for us to increase our pension lists on 
a mere amendment of a bill of this kind. I do not like to object 
to anything of this sort, because I have the same feelings that other 
Senators have, a feeling of kindness and commiseration for those 
who have been wounded in the service of the country ; but, if this 
amendment is pressed, I shall have to make opposition to it and 
move the postponement of the bill. If the bill is only intended to 
remove ambiguities in existing laws, as the Senator from West Vir- 
ginia (Mr. Van Winkle) has stated, I have no objection, but I can- 
not consent to this increase of pensions." l 

The amendment was withdrawn and the bill passed. 

Previous legislation had left the order of precedence of 
dependent relatives in the receipt of pensions somewhat in- 
definite, and declaratory legislation on the question was 
needed. This was supplied by the first section of the act of 
1868, which gave precedence to dependent relatives of 
deceased soldiers leaving neither widow nor child " in the 
following order, namely : first, mothers ; secondly, fathers ; 
thirdly, orphan brothers or sisters under sixteen years of 
age," who were to be pensioned jointly if there was more 
than one. Where the dependent mother and father were 
both living, the father was given the right to succeed to the 
pension on the death of the mother. And, upon the death of 
the father and mother, the dependent brothers and sisters 
under sixteen years of age were given joint title to the pen- 
sion until they attained the age of sixteen years, respectively ; 
the pension to date from the death of the party who, 
preceding them, would have been entitled to the same. No 
pension already awarded was to be affected by the foregoing 

The second section of the act of 1868 was also important 
as defining the conditions under which pensions would be 

1 Cong. Globe, 2d Sess., 1867-1868, Part v, 4230. 


granted for disabilities incurred in time of peace. It pro- 
vided : ' 

"That no person shall be entitled to a pension by reason of 
wounds received, or disease contracted, in the service of the United 
States, subsequently to the passage of this act, unless the person who 
was wounded or contracted disease was in the line of duty ; and, if 
in the military service, was at the time actually in the field, or on the 
march, or at some post, fort or garrison ; or, if in the naval service, 
was at the time borne on the books of some ship, or other vessel of 
the United States, at sea or in harbor, actually in commission, or was 
on his way, by direction of competent authority, to the United States, 
or to some other vessel or naval station." 

Arrears of pension were allowed by section six of this 
law. This provided that all pensions which had been 
granted in consequence of death occurring, or disease con- 
tracted, or wounds received since March 4, 1861, or which 
might thereafter be granted, should commence from the 
death or discharge of the person on whose account the pen- 
sion had been or might be granted. In order to secure the 
benefits of this arrears provision, it was required that the ap- 
plication for the pension should be filed with the Commis- 
sioner of Pensions within five years after the right thereto 
had accrued. An exception to this limitation was made in 
favor of insane persons and children under sixteen years of 
age without guardians or other proper legal representatives. 

This act also contained numerous sections of minor im- 
portance, changing and supplementing the general pen- 
sion law. Failure to claim a pension for three years was 
made presumptive evidence that the pension had legally ter- 
minated, subject to a right of restoration on a new applica- 
tion, with evidence satisfactorily accounting for the failure to 
claim the pension. Where a soldier or sailor died leaving a 
widow entitled to a pension, and also a child or children 
under sixteen years of age by a former wife, a pension of 

30I ] CIVIL WAR, i86i-i8 79 83 

two dollars per month was provided for each of such chil- 
dren, thus placing them upon the same footing as the chil- 
dren of a surviving widow. Other sections dealt with many 
matters not of sufficient general interest to demand attention 
here, although of great importance to claimants and attor- 
neys. The whole tendency of this act of 1868 was toward a 
liberal construction of the pension laws. 

Although several measures were introduced into Congress, 
no other general pension laws were enacted for some time. 
The acts of June 17 and June 30, 1870, may be noticed as 
marking a further provision for the veterans of the war. 1 In 
these laws, Congress granted to every soldier who lost a limb 
during the war, an artificial limb or apparatus once in every 
five years, or, if he elected, -money commutation therefor. 

There was approved on July 8, 1870, an act " to define 
the duties of pension agents, to prescribe the manner of pay- 
ing pensions, and for other purposes." 2 This was important 
from an administrative standpoint. It provided that pen- 
sions should be paid quarterly instead of semi-annually, and 
only to the persons entitled thereto, and not to any attorney 
or claim agent acting for the pensioner. The fees of attor- 
neys were also regulated. In consequence of the provision 
for quarterly payment of pensions, the whole amount of 
pensions accruing between March 4, 1870, and June 4, 1871, 
a period of fifteen months, became due and payable within 
the fiscal year ending June 30, 1871. This made the expen- 
diture during the year 1871 larger by one-fifth than it would 
normally have been. 

Under the laws then in force, pension expenditures seemed 
to have reached a maximum. The reported expenditure for 
the year ending June 30, 1869, was $28,423,000; for 1870, 
$27,781,000; and if payment for but four quarters had been 

1 U. S. Statutes at Lar%e, xvi, 153 174. '* Ibid., xvi, 193-195. 


made in the fiscal year 1871, the amount for that year would 
probably have been under $26,500,000. On February 14, 
1871, the act granting service pensions on account of the 
War of 1812 became law. This was the culmination of 
many attempts to enact a statute of the kind, and for a time 
added considerably to the annual outlay for pensions. It 
has been considered under the treatment of War of 1812 

Commissioner Baker, in his report for 1871, gives some 
interesting information with regard to the average pension at 
that time. 1 He says : 

"The invalid army pension averages $8.92 per month; widows 
and dependents, $12.65 ; navy invalids, $9.10 ; navy widows, $15.40. 
The average pension for all classes is $10.99. As a total pension lor 
a private is but $8 per month, this rating appears extraordinary and 
the result was unexpected. The solution of this problem, so far as 
the invalid army and navy pensions are concerned, lies in the act of 
June 6, 1866, which establishes the most liberal rates for serious dis- 
abilities ; and those entitled have not been slow to avail themselves 
of this generous beneficence. As provided by this act there are no 
less than 15,060 of the third grade ($15 per month) already on the 
rolls. The high average of widows' pensions is explained by the lib- 
eral provisions of the act of July 25, 1866, which grants $2 per 
month additional for each child under sixteen years of age." 

In the same report, the Commissioner also says : 

" As we recede from the War of the Rebellion, many disabilities, 
in their nature temporary, are disappearing by recuperative energies, 
and the pensioner, reluctant to lose his gratuity, oftentimes tries to 
fortify himself by evidence, which only consumes the time and labor 
of the office to no purpose. In many of the later applications for 
original pension, it is often a matter of extreme doubt whether the 
disability at this distant period from the war (1871) actually had its 

1 House Ex. Doc., 426. Cong., 1871-1872, Report of Sec'y of Interior, Part i, 
380, 382, 385. 

303] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 85 

origin in the service, so that the line of demarcation between duty 
to the Government and justice to the soldier is difficult to find." 

These words are especially interesting when it is remem- 
bered that at the present time original invalid pension claims 
are still being allowed on account of service in the Civil War. 

With the multiplication of pension laws, the urgent need 
of a codification was felt. The laws were often confused, am- 
biguous in expression and contrary in provisions. In 1871 
Commissioner Baker recommended that all the needful pro- 
visions of past legislation, cleared of what was doubtful, con- 
trary or cumbersome, be codified into one act. He thought 
that no additional or more liberal legislation was needed. 
On March 3, 1873, "An act to revise, consolidate, and 
amend the laws relating to pensions " was approved. 1 

This act consisted of thirty-nine sections. It has some- 
times been called the " Consolidation Act," and was primarily 
intended as a codification, revision and interpretation of the 
numerous pension laws for which the Civil War had furnished 
occasion. So many changes had been introduced into the 
law from time to time, that a reduction of the whole body of 
legislation to an intelligible and harmonious system, had be- 
come a necessity. 

However, this measure did in some respects materially 
change existing laws. New rates were established for cer- 
tain kinds of specific disabilities. The section regarding the 
pensions of widows and children was so drawn as to increase 
a large number of pensions of this class, with arrears from 
July 25, 1866. In a number of cases where there was only 
one surviving child, and the widow was dead or debarred 
from receiving a pension, the amount of the surviving child's 
pension was increased two dollars per month. That is, the 
child was granted the amount to which a widow with one 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xviii, 566 et seq. 


child would be entitled, instead of the amount which a widow 
with no child would receive. The provisions of this section 
involved in many cases seven years' arrears of increase. A 
further demand upon the pension appropriations was caused 
by the authorization of intermediate grades between eight 
and eighteen dollars for certain classes of invalid pensioners 
who had been receiving the lower rate. 

Everything of a permanent nature in the pension laws of 
the United States, down to March 4, 1873, was included in 
the Revised Statutes enacted in that year. Sections 4692 to 
4791, inclusive, pertain to pensions, although many miscel- 
laneous sections deal with questions arising out of the ad- 
ministration of the pension laws. 

Commissioner Baker, in his report for 1873, gives a very 
interesting account of the condition of the widows' and de- 
pendent relatives' roll at that time. 1 He says : 

" An annual diminution of the widows' and dependent relatives' 
roll may hereafter be expected by reason of the termination of minors' 
pensions (of which there were on the 3oth of June last, 34,850) on 
account of the children reaching the age of sixteen years. A very 
careful and interesting analysis of this roll has been made since the 
close of the last fiscal year, from which it is found that of the 112,- 
088 pensioners upon it, 21,862 were widows without minor children ; 
29,696 were widows with children to the number of 54,451 under 
sixteen years of age; 34,850 were minors' pensions, with 57,807 
children receiving the benefits therefrom; 21,852 were dependent 
mothers; 2,025 were dependent fathers; and 56 were pensions to 
brothers and sisters of deceased soldiers." 

For the first time since 1862, the pension roll on June 30, 
1874, showed a decrease in numbers. This decrease con- 
tinued slowly but steadily until 1879, when the remarkable 
legislation of that year brought about rapid additions to the 
list of pensioners. The War of 1812 pension act of 1878 

1 House Ex. Doc., 43d Cong., 187 '3-1874, Report of 'Sec 'y of 'Interior, Part i, 306. 

305] CIVIL WAR, 1861-1879 37 

also had a similar effect. Between 1873 and 1879, several 
acts were passed making decided increases in the rates for 
specific disabilities. In spite of these laws, the expenditure 
for pensions, as well as the number of pensioners, declined 
during that period, with the exception of a slight increase 
in 1877. The Arrears of Pensions Act of January 25, 1879, 
and the supplementary provisions contained in the arrears 
appropriation act of March 3, 1879, marked a new era in 
the history of pension legislation. The next chapter will 
open with a study of this Arrears Act. 



To understand clearly the Arrears Act of 1879, it is 
necessary to review previous provisions with regard to the 
commencement of pensions granted on account of service in 
the Civil War. The act of July 14, 1862, provided that in- 
valid pensions should commence from the date of discharge 
in all cases in which the application should be filed within 
one year after that date ; otherwise the pension was to com- 
mence from the date of filing the application. Pensions to 
widows and dependent relatives were to commence, without 
limitation as to the date of application, from the death of 
the soldier on whose account the pension in question was 
granted. Further provisions regarding the commencement 
of pensions were made in 1864 and 1866, and the whole 
matter was left in a state neither clear nor satisfactory. 
Without going into confusing details, it is enough to point 
out that under the existing provisions there was great danger 
of unjust discrimination between claims of equal merit. 

The act of July 27, 1868, granted arrears and made a fresh 
start. Section six of this law provided that all pensions 
which had been granted, in consequence of death occurring, 
or disease contracted, or wounds received since March 4, 
1 86 1, or which might thereafter be granted, should com- 
mence from the discharge or death of the person on whose 
account the pension had been or might be granted. In order 
to secure the benefits of this provision, it was required that 
applications for pensions should be filed with the Commis- 
88 [306 

307] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 89 

sioner of Pensions within five years after the right thereto 
had accrued, but applications by or in behalf of insane per- 
sons and children under sixteen years of age might be filed 
after the expiration of the five years, if previously they were 
without guardians or other legal representatives. 

The above law involved the payment of considerable ar- 
rears, but it served to establish a definite basis for the com- 
mencement of pensions. This same provision was substan- 
tially incorporated in the important Consolidation Act of 
March 3, 1873, which provided that pensions should com- 
mence from the death or discharge of the person on whose 
account the claim had been or should thereafter be granted, 
or from the termination of the right of the party having prior 
title to the pension, provided that the application had been 
or should be filed within five years after the right to pension 
had accrued. Otherwise the pension was to commence from 
the date of filing the last evidence necessary to establish the 
claim. This five years' limitation was subsequently embodied 
in the Revised Statutes, and remained in force until the pas- 
sage of the Arrears Act. 

It would seem that a period of five years after his dis- 
charge afforded to the soldier sufficient opportunity to dis- 
cover whether or not he was suffering from any disability, 
and, in case he was disabled, to file an application for a 
pension. Where he did not file an application within five 
years, there seems to be presumptive evidence that, from his 
own standpoint, he either did not deserve or did not need a 
pension. If later he applied for a pension, it is hard to see 
any sound reason for paying him arrears from the date of 
his discharge from the army. Certainly, the most that could 
with any show of justice be asked is that the pension should 
date from the time of filing the application. And this has 
not proved in practice a faultless rule, for it has given op- 
portunity for the resurrection of worthless claims, which 


have long been dormant, and for the completion of the evi- 
dence by fraudulent means in order to obtain large sums 
of arrears. The safest rule, which may of course work hard- 
ship in some cases, is to date the pension from the comple- 
tion of the last evidence necessary to establish the claim. 

Early in the seventies, the number of pensioners and the 
expenditures for their payment showed signs of having 
reached a maximum under existing laws. For a time, any 
marked tendency towards a decrease was checked, largely 
by the passage of the act of February 14, 1871, granting 
service pensions on account of the War of 1812. But, as 
has been noted, in the fiscal year 1874 the pension list 
decreased in numbers from the previous year for the first 
time since 1862. This decrease continued until 1879, when 
the War of 1812 pension act of 1878, and the Arrears Act, 
reversed the process. Likewise the annual pension expendi- 
ture decreased from $30,594,000 in 1874 to $26,844,000 in 
1878. Beginning as early as 1869 and 1870, there was also 
a notable falling off in the number of original claims pre- 
sented on account of service in the Civil War. The number 
of original claims filed under the general law practically all 
Civil War claims was 24,851 in 1870, 18,154 in 1871, 16,030 
in 1872, 15,523 in 1873, and 15, 284 in 1874.' During 1871 and 
1872, the claim agents were kept busy pressing claims under 
the War of 1812 pension act of 1871. After these were dis- 
posed of, the agents displayed greater activity in stimulating 
new Civil War claims. As a consequence, there was a con- 
siderable increase in the number of new claims presented in 
the years from 1875 to 1878. But, with all their efforts, the 
agents found original applications more and more difficult to 
secure, and to prevent the loss of their lucrative business be- 
gan an aggressive agitation for new legislation. 

The increased activities of the pension attorneys received 

1 Compiled from the Report of the Commissioner of Pensions for 1898. 

209] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 91 

considerable attention in the report of Commissioner of Pen- 
sions Bentley for the year 1878.* He said that the country 
was being continually advertised and drummed from one end 
to the other by claim agents in pursuit of persons who had 
honest claims, or of those who were willing, in consideration 
of the fact that it would cost them nothing unless they won 
their pensions, to file claims which had no merit, leaving it 
to the ingenuity and cupidity of their agents to " work " the 
cases through. The Commissioner also called attention to 
the fact that professional claim agents and claim firms at 
Washington and other points were advertising their business 
by " employing for that purpose in some instances sheets is- 
sued in the form of periodical newspapers purporting to be 
published iti the interest of the soldiers, the columns of 
which contained matter in which apparent anxiety for the 
soldiers' welfare and appeals to their love of gain were cun- 
ningly intermingled." These sheets always represented the 
advertisers as in the enjoyment of special and peculiar facil- 
ities for the successful prosecution of claims, and usually 
added the suggestion that no charge would be made unless 
a pension should be obtained. 

All of this agitation and advertisement had its effect in 
producing a demand for pensions throughout the country. 
Congress received numerous petitions for arrears and addi- 
tional legislation. An act granting arrears was introduced 
in the 44th Congress, but the proposal was killed in com- 
mittee. In the 45th Congress, the Arrears Act, which finally 
became a law, was introduced by Mr. Cummings, of Iowa, 
on April 2, 1878. The bill was referred to the Committee 
on Invalid Pensions, and ordered printed. 2 On June 19, 
under a suspension of the rules, and, without any discussion 
whatever, the Committee on Invalid Pensions was discharged 

1 House Ex. Doc., 1878-1879, ix, 813-837. 

3 Cong. Record, 2d Sess., 45th Cong., 1878, vii, Part iii, 2217. 


from further consideration of this measure, and it was passed 
with an amendment providing that no claim agent or other 
person should be entitled to receive any compensation for 
services in making application for arrears in pensions. The 
vote on the bill was yeas, 164; nays, 61 ; not voting, 65.' 
In the House, the political majority was Democratic. The 
bill was sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Com- 
mittee on Pensions and not reported at this session. 2 

Upon a superficial observation, the amendment, forbidding 
claim agents to receive compensation for services in making 
application for arrears, may seem to have deprived them of 
all pecuniary interest in the passage of the measure. 
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the 
amendment served as a cunning blind, and gave to the bill 
the appearance of being wholly for the benefit of the soldiers 
and their dependent relatives. The great point of import- 
ance in this legislation was not that it granted millions of 
arrears on claims already allowed, but that it granted on all 
original claims, which might thereafter be allowed, arrears 
dating from the time of death or discharge. Here was a 
premium of about one thousand dollars placed upon the es- 
tablishment of each new claim, and this premium growing 
in amount year by year. It needed no unusual keenness to 
perceive that this extraordinary stimulus would enable the 
claim agents to bring upon the Pension Bureau a flood of 
original claims from all parts of the country. Upon such 
claims the agents were at that time legally entitled to col- 
lect a fee not greater than ten dollars, without taking into 
consideration such sums as they might obtain by their com- 
mon evasions and violations of the law. 3 This whole aspect 
of the Arrears Act was utterly ignored in Congress. 

1 Cong. Record, 2d Sess., 45th Cong., 1878, vii, Part v, 4874-4875. 

f Ibid., Part v, 4865. 

8 The prohibition of compensation to agents for service in making application 

3n] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 93 

With the arrears measure passed in the House and await- 
ing the consideration of the Senate at the next session, its 
advocates devoted the intervening time to the circulation of 
petitions and to the continuance of their agitation. The 
Grand Army of the Republic was not yet the efficient organ 
in the pursuit of pensions which it has since become. Or- 
ganized in 1866, its motives were for some years entirely 
praiseworthy. It sought to perpetuate old friendships and 
memories, and provide for the mutual support and assistance 
of the comrades of the war. Such recommendations as it 
made to Congress in behalf of the old soldiers were quite 
beyond criticism. It was not until after 1880 that the or- 
ganization began to serve as a mighty machine for the pros- 
ecution of the claims of the soldiers of the Civil War upon 
the National Treasury. However, at the annual encamp- 
ment in 1878, General John C. Robinson, Commander-in- 
Chief, called attention, in his address, to the introduction of 
the Arrears Act in Congress, He said that he had been 
struck with the justice of the measure, and that he had 
immediately brought it to the attention of the department 
commanders, hoping that action by the several department 
encampments might have an important bearing on its suc- 
cess. At the next annual encampment, General Robinson 
was able to report that the Arrears Bill had become law. 1 

At the third session of the 45th Congress, the movement 
for arrears was strongly felt in the Senate. Several bills on 
the subject were introduced, and from all sections of the 
country came numerous petitions in favor of the measure 

for arrears should be received with considerable allowance. It can hardly be 
thought that the average claimant, who had just received, through the efforts of an 
agent, from several hundred to a thousand dollars of arrears in a lump sum, would 
make any objection to paying the agent under some pretext or subterfuge an ade- 
quate and sometimes exorbitant fee. 

1 See article on " The Grand Army as a Pension Agency," forum, xv, 527. 


which had passed the House at the second session. One 
memorial from an association of pensioners included a for- 
mer estimate made by the Pension Bureau of the probable 
amount which would be necessary to pay arrears to January 
I, 1876. Basing their figures on this report, the memorial- 
ists urged that fifteen millions of dollars would suffice to 
meet the arrears provided by the House bill. They referred 
to the fact that six State Legislatures had recommended the 
passage of the bill, " while numerous organizations have 
made similar recommendations, and petitions of over two 
hundred thousand citizens to the same effect have been filed 
in Congress." The passage of the Arrears Act was urged 
" in behalf of honesty, equity, justice and morality, and in 
upholding and maintaining the national faith which has been 
pledged to the payment of this just debt." 1 

On January 16, 1879, the House arrears bill was taken up 
in the Senate and considered. The debate on the matter 
was most inadequate. Senator Ingalls, who was in charge 
of the bill, thought that from eighteen to twenty million dol- 
lars would be required to pay arrears on claims already al- 
lowed, but admitted that these estimates were very largely 
in the nature of surmises. The important questions of the 
cost of arrears on pension claims yet to be allowed, and of 
the effect of the measure in stimulating new applications, 
were entirely dodged. In fact, the advocates of the Arrears 
Act seem to have given the impression, whether intention- 
ally or not, that the bill would take only some twenty 
million dollars from the Treasury. They resolutely opposed 
any amendment, and the measure was passed as it came from 
the House by yeas, 44 ; nays, 4; absent, 28. 2 Having been 
adopted by overwhelming majorities in both the Democratic 
House and the Republican Senate, the bill went to the Pres- 

1 Cong. Record, 1878-1879, viii, Part i, 373. * Ibid., Part i, 484-494. 

*U \nSRSlTT 

3! 3] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 95 

ident for his approval. Already serious misgivings, as to its 
probable effects, were being expressed by Secretary of the 
Interior Schurz and Secretary of the Treasury Sherman, but 
even they had no adequate conception of the vast expendi- 
tures to be required. The pressure for the act was great, 
and it received the signature of President Hayes on January 
25, I879. 1 

The Arrears Act, in substance, provided that all pensions 
which had been granted under the general laws regulating 
pensions, or which should thereafter be granted, in conse- 
quence of death from a cause which originated in the United 
States service during the Civil War, or in consequence of 
wounds, injuries, or disease received or contracted in that 
service, should commence from the date of the death or 
discharge of the person on whose account the pension had 
been or should thereafter be granted, or from the termina- 
tion of the right of the party having prior title to the pension. 
The rate of pension for the intervening time for which arrears 
were allowed was to be the same per month as that for which 
the pension was originally granted. Rules and regulations 
were to be adopted by the Commissioner of Pensions for the 
payment of arrears to each pensioner entitled, or, if the pen- 
sioner should have died, to the person or persons entitled to 
the same. A requirement of record evidence from the War 
or Navy Department in cases not prosecuted to a successful 
issue within five years was repealed. As previously men- 
tioned, the act forbade claim agents to receive compensation 
for services in making application for arrears of pension. 
All conflicting acts or parts of acts were repealed. 

Soon after the passage of the Arrears Act, new claims 
began to be presented at the Pension Bureau with unex- 
ampled rapidity. Secretary Schurz thought the existing 

1 U. S. Statutes at Lar%e, xx, 265. 


system of adjudication utterly inadequate to handle them 
with justice to the pensioner and proper safeguards to the 
Government. On February 4, 1879, the Commissioner of 
Pensions estimated that $34,000,000 would be required to 
pay the arrears on claims which had been allowed prior to 
January 25, 1879; $2,500,000 for arrears upon claims al- 
lowed and to be allowed between January 25 and June 30, 
1879, and $5,000,000 to pay arrears upon claims which 
would be allowed in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1880.' 
Adopting this estimate, the Secretary of the Treasury recom- 
mended to Congress that bonds be sold to meet a prospective 
deficit in the national budget for the year i88o. 2 However, 
in making the above report and estimate, the Commissioner 
of Pensions called attention to some manifest defects in the 
loosely drawn Arrears Act, and recommended to Congress 
some changes and explanatory provisions. If these recom- 
mendations were adopted, he thought the arrears on claims 
allowed prior to January 25, 1879, could be reduced to 
$25,000,000, and that the amount of arrears to be paid on 
claims allowed after that date would be materially lessened. 
In the meantime, he delayed the final adjustment of all pend- 
ing claims. 

The Commissioner also called the attention of Congress to 
the extraordinary facilities for the successful prosecution of 
fraudulent and unmeritorious claims afforded by the existing 
ex parte system of evidence. He asked Congress for relief 
along the lines recommended in previous reports, and said : 

" As the law stood previous to the passage of the Arrears Act the 
temptation to fraud was very great, but since that act it is many 
times increased. Then the claims were comparatively few in which 
any considerable sum of money would be the immediate reward of 
a successfully prosecuted claim, but since that act every invalid claim 

1 House Ex. Doc., 3d Sess., 45th Con., 1878-1879, xvi, no. 75. 
a Ibid., Document no. 85. 

315] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 gy 

allowed, as well as many of the other classes, will have in it from sev- 
eral hundred to several thousand dollars due the claimant at the first 

" It is estimated by those best informed that there have been not 
less than $2,000,000 paid out annually for fraudulent pensions. In 
my judgment, the estimate is below, rather than above, the actual 

" With the temptation to the commission of fraud so greatly in- 
creased, and the road to the Treasury easy through ex parte pro- 
ceedings, the consequences can easily be foretold. Not only will 
the people be taxed to pay an annual tribute to the unworthy 
amounting to several millions of dollars, but with so many claims 
pending, and still to be presented, and the avenues to the two or 
three hundred persons, more or less, who are charged with their ad- 
justment, open for the approach of interested parties, it will be little 
less than a miracle if extensive official corruption does not follow." 

Later in the same session of Congress at which the Ar- 
rears Act was passed, a bill making appropriations for ar- 
rears was introduced into the House, and passed without 
much consideration. 1 It carried an appropriation of $25,- 
000,000 for the arrears due on pensions which had been al- 
lowed prior to January 25, 1879, and an appropriation of 
$1,800,000 for arrears on claims to be allowed between 
January 25, 1879, and June 30, the end of the fiscal year. 
In the Senate, this bill and proposed amendments were the 
occasion of a considerable discussion. 2 Several of these 
amendments were very important, and were accepted by the 
House. They embodied in part suggestions made by the 
Commissioner of Pensions. 3 

1 Cong. Record, 1878-1879, viii, Part ii, 1487-1488. 

2 Ibid., 1878-1879, viii, Part iii, 1980, 1981-1984, 2033-2040, 2042-2051, 2052- 
2058, 2223-2243. 

3 One amendment, proposed in the Senate, was designed to change the system of 
adjudication of pension claims in accordance with the recommendation of the 
Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Pensions. It contemplated 


It is interesting in this debate to find that the Senate 
had awakened to some idea of the great cost of the Arrears 
Act. It was freely alleged that Senator Ingalls and the 
other advocates of the arrears bill had given the impression 
that " the amount to be taken out of the Treasury by the 
arrears of pensions bill could not exceed $20,000,000 at the 
outside." Senator Thurman, of Ohio, said : 

" The very next thing after the passage of the bill that I heard 
was that the Commissioner of Pensions required $4,000,000 for the 
present fiscal year, and thirty odd millions for the next fiscal year, 
and there is no telling where it is to end ; and we are told in some 
quarters that it will take fifty, some say sixty, and some say one hun- 
dred millions out of the Treasury. I must say that, if that is so, 
there was a grievous error somewhere, a grievous mistake some- 
where when the arrears of pensions bill was considered." 

Senators Conkling and Ingalls had a sharp dispute as to 
whether Mr. Ingalls had misled the Senate at the time of the 
passage of the Arrears Act. Conkling had the better of the 
argument, for whether Ingalls meant to mislead the Senate 
or not, his words on the occasion in question were well calcu- 
lated to do so. 

While refusing to authorize the sale of bonds to pay the 
arrears, the Senate was willing to add to this appropriation 
bill an innocent little " rider " providing, " That the law 

the division of the country into not to exceed sixty districts for the purposes of 
pension administration. At various points in each of these districts, a commission, 
consisting of an experienced surgeon and a legal clerk, was to sit and personally 
examine claimants and witnesses, thus doing away with the ex parte system of 
testimony. The testimony was to be forwarded to the Commissioner of Pensions, 
for the adjustment and settlement of claims. The scheme was designed to pre- 
vent frauds which were variously estimated to amount to from ten to twenty per 
cent, of the pension list. It was bitterly opposed by the clique of Washington 
pension attorneys, who imputed partisan motives to its advocates. Some of the 
senators thought the measure capable of abuse to secure the soldiers' votes. The 
amendment was rejected. 

3! 7] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 gg 

granting pensions to the soldiers and their widows of the 
War of 1 8 12, approved March 9, 1878, is hereby made ap- 
plicable in all its provisions to the soldiers and sailors who 
served in the War with Mexico of 1846." The bill was 
passed with this amendment, which received absolutely no 
consideration. A motion to reconsider was entered by 
Senator Windom. Some days later, when he pointed out 
that " the little proposition so good-naturedly introduced by 
the Senator from Missouri and so good-naturedly supported 
by a majority of the Senate the other evening would take 
from thirty to forty millions out of the Treasury," the vote 
by which the bill passed was reconsidered. The amendment 
was struck out after a debate in which the old question of 
loyalty and disloyalty during the Civil War came up, and 
considerable partisan acrimony was shown. One is tempted 
to believe that some of the Senators who had voted for the 
" rider" were glad of the opportunity to plead as an excuse 
for changing their votes the fact that the provision would 
have the pernicious effect of pensioning Jefferson Davis and 
other ex-Confederates. After being passed again, the bill 
was sent to the House with a number of Senate amendments 
which were concurred in. It was approved on March 3, 

The Senate amendments provided that the rate, at which 
the arrears of invalid pensions should be allowed and com- 
puted, should be graded according to the degree of the pen- 
sioner's disability from time to time, and the provisions of 
pension law in force over the period for which arrears were 
granted. In no case was a pension to be allowed and paid 
from a time prior to the date of actual disability. It was 
also provided that arrears of pension should be granted only 
where the application for the pension had been or should 
thereafter be filed with the Commissioner of Pensions prior to 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xx, 469. 


the first day of July, eighteen hundred and eighty ; other- 
wise the pension was to commence from the date of fil- 
ing the application. This limitation did not apply to claims 
by or in behalf of insane persons and children under sixteen 
years of age. The introduction of such a limitation is most 
important, although it is directly contrary to the principle 
on which the Arrears Act was passed. The advocates of the 
act had urged that the interposition of any statute of limita- 
tion against the full satisfaction of the claims of the ex- 
soldiers was a despicable defense on the part of the National 
Government. They sought to place the Government in the 
position of a debtor avoiding a just settlement with creditors 
holding claims of a most sacred nature. Nevertheless, it was 
the introduction of a limitation that saved the arrears mon- 
strosity from being utterly unendurable. Expensive and 
harmful as the amended measure was, there was a prospect 
of some end to the drains upon the National Treasury. Left 
in its original form, the premium upon the successful prose- 
cution of a pension claim would have grown greater with the 
lapse of each year. Claims might be presented today 
and allowed with arrears dating back to the Civil War. 
Under such a law, who could estimate the inducement to 
fraud, or count the cost? It was well that Congress pro- 
vided some bar against the enormous demands which were 
impending on the Treasury. 

In his report for the year ending June 30, 1879, the Com- 
missioner of Pensions spoke of the pressure upon his office 
which the Arrears Act was causing. 1 He said : 

"Since the act of January 25, 1879, commonly known as the Ar- 
rears Act, the new claims of invalids, widows, minor children and 
dependent relatives have come in at an unprecedented rate, the in- 
valids at a rate more than double that ever before known in the his- 

1 House Ex. Doc., zd Sess., 46th Cong., 1879-1880, Report of the Secretary of 
Interior, ii, 282. 


tory of the office, except in the year 1866, and within a few hundred 
of double the rate of that year, which, it will be noted, was the year 
following the disbandment of the armies, when all the sick and dis- 
abled soldiers became at once entitled to apply for pension, while 
the rate of the receipt of widows', children's, and dependent rela- 
tives' claims is greater than that of any year since 1867, and more 
than twice the rate of any year since 1871. 

Added to this inflow of new business is the pressure of all the 
older claims for an early settlement, which was great and constantly 
increasing before the passage of the Arrears Act, but since its pass- 
age overwhelms the office with repeated demands of claimants for 
the adjustment of their claims, and altogether the current work of 
the office is greatly increased and has been thrown so far in ar- 
rears that there are many and very serious complaints at the delays 
in answering the inquiries relative to pending claims." 

The Commissioner again pointed out the wretched in- 
efficiency of the ex parte system of adjudicating claims. 

"Besides being cumbersome and expensive," said he, "the present 
system is an open door to the Treasury for the perpetration of fraud. 
The affidavits in support oi the claims have the same appearance to 
the officers of the Bureau, whether true or false. * * * There 
is another aspect of the ex parte system which should receive the 
most earnest consideration on the part of the Government, and that 
is its fruitfulness of crime against the laws, in the nature of perjury, 
forgery and false personation." 

This was the claim agents' harvest time. A thousand dol- 
lars or more at the first payment was a strong incentive to 
the presentation of new claims. In the months of the fiscal 
year 1879, during which the Arrears Act was in operation, 
such claims were filed many times as fast as during the first 
half of the same year. The full effect of the Arrears Act 
in the stimulation of original claims was not felt until the 
fiscal year ending June 30, 1880. During that year the total 
number of original claims filed for invalids, widows and de- 
pendent relatives on account of services in the Civil War 


was 138,195. The number of such claims filed in 1878 was 
26,304, and in 1879, 47,416. In the single month of June, 
1880, just before the limitation upon the allowance of arrears 
went into effect, there were 44,532 original Civil War claims 
filed. This was nearly as many as in the whole fiscal year 
1879. The total disbursements for pensions were, in the 
fiscal year 1880, $57,240,000 as compared with $26,844,000 
in 1878, and $33,780,000 in 1879.' 

In the years 1881 and 1882, it became apparent that the 
arrears of pensions on claims allowed prior to January 25, 
1879, would reach nearly $25,000,000, the amount estimated 
by Commissioner Bentley just after the passage of the Ar- 
rears Act. It also became clear that the great cost of the 
measure would result from a feature entirely ignored upon 
its original passage, that is, the granting of arrears upon 
each claim allowed after January 25, 1879, (provided, by 
the amendment of March 3, 1879, that such claims were 
filed before January I, 1880). This feature gave the great- 
est incentive to extraordinary efforts for the establishment of 
new claims by fair means or foul. 

The average first payment, in 1 88 1, to an army invalid 
was $953.62 ; to army widows, minor children and dependent 
relatives $1,021.51; to navy invalids, $771.42; to navy 
widows, minor children and dependent relatives, $790.22. 
Provided that claims were originally filed within the pre- 
scribed time, delay in the completion of proof simply in- 
creased the allowance in prospect at the first payment, and 
the prize grew greater as the years passed by. The system 
put a premium upon fraud, the method of adjudication facil- 
itated fraud, and there is no doubt in the mind of the writer 
that fraud was an element in the establishment of many 
claims under the Arrears Act. 

1 The statistics in this chapter are compiled from the annual Reports of the 
Commissioner of Pensions for the years in questions. 

32 I ] ARREARS ACT TO 1890 103 

Besides the great total which the first payments reached 
annually, the ordinary payments for an indefinite series of 
years were increased to an extent which would have been 
impossible but for the unnatural stimulus to the presenta- 
tion of claims. The cost of the Arrears Act in this respect 
is enormous, but cannot be calculated. It is not possible to 
estimate accurately the number of claims which would have 
been filed if the act had not been passed. Statistics have 
shown us, however, that the increase in the number of 
claims which followed its passage was immediate and un- 

Under date of January 25, 1886, General J. C. Black, 
Commissioner of Pensions, estimated that, up to June 30, 
1885, the aggregate of arrears paid under the act of 1879 
was $179,400,000. This leaves out of consideration the cost 
to the Government resulting from the extraordinary stimulus 
afforded by the Arrears Act, to the presentation of new 
claims. In its national platform of 1884, the Republican 
party pledged itself to the repeal of the limitation contained 
in the Arrears Act. In 1890, it was officially estimated 
that the cost of a repeal of that limitation would be $471,- 
000,000. x The pledge has not been fulfilled. While, from 
the nature of the problem, the exact cost of the Arrears Act 
cannot be ascertained, we have indisputable evidence that 
it has reached hundreds of millions of dollars. Thus, at the 
expense of the nation, has been demonstrated the mon- 
strous character of this measure, passed under the assump- 
tion that it would take about twenty millions from the 

The following table is valuable in the study of the effects 
of the Arrears Act. 2 It shows the amounts of disburse- 

1 Senate Reports, 5ist Cong., ist Sess., vii, no. 989, 25-26. 

2 From Statistical Abstract of United States for 1899, 422. The total disburse- 
ments differ slightly from revised figures given in recent reports of the Commis- 
sioner of Pensions, 




ments for pensions for first and subsequent payments from 
1877 to 1899 inclusive. 

Year ending 
June 30. 

First payments. 

Pensions exclusive of 
first payments. 


1877 . 


3284 O77 12 





^4^J/J/4 U O U 

^o,^ou, I5/.U4 

1870. . 

',yy-', > 55^. 1 7 

2 3o3 5 439"93 



/",} /:> C> ''- HJ 

12 468 JQI 2O 

277 2 5'979"9 

33,7 5 ,5 2 . I 9 

1881. .. 

44oD, u ^.y^ 

?fi A cS /nS T/I 

i/>^4 u >i4 u 1 4 



50,626,538.5 ^ 


2O QO6 7 C 1 QA 





79 ^iS'' T ?fi fS 

uu ,4J 1 ,y7^.5 

*.54 1 .5 01 5. 1U 


fi 6 6 


37, 7,375.9 

/ o 


" I .37 O 54. 1D 


64,54, 2 7.45 

7/1 Sic / 8fi Sc 


c6 c68 8^ T ?8 



21 AA2 1AQ I 7 



78 721 866 O7 

66 806 71/1 7C 

1 06 4Q7> 890 IQ 

1801 . . 

78 726 808 /i T 


AC T IA 167 68 

Ilo o4 o ,y57'7* 

I A I 086 O^l8 8/1 

1801. . 

l&QA. . 



I 5 I 55342.5 I 


1 1 ACI 1 11 OI 

1 4 u ,77- : , lo j.7 o 

1807. . 




^^J/D, " 1 ^^ 

l ^7,o74 11 D.y5 

1 jy,y4y7 i 7.o5 


1 jOT" i ,:7 1 T-. u J 
Q 2A.T QC7 7C 


I 78 7C C OC2 QC 



In the above table, attention should be given to the re- 
markable increase in the amounts of first payments during 
the years following the passage of the Arrears Act. A very 
large part of such first payments consisted of arrears. In 
the year 1883, the first payments amounted to about half of 
the total disbursements. The abnormal expenditure in 
1880 for pensions, exclusive of first payments, was probably 
due to the payment of arrears to those persons already on 
the rolls. It should also be remembered that the total pen- 
sion expenditures had been slowly decreasing for several 
years prior to the passage of the Arrears Act. After 1879, 

323] ARREARS ACJ TO 1890 IC >5 

the increase was very marked. Other legislation is respon- 
sible for a large part of the expenditure in first payments 
after 1889. 

Between 1879 and 1890, a number of laws were enacted 
increasing the rate of pension for certain specific disabilities, 
providing for the removal of the charge of desertion in many 
classes of cases, and also providing for special examinations, 
medical examinations and other details in the administration 
of the pension laws. The Mexican War pension act of 1887 
has been previously discussed. 

The increase act of March 19, 1886, provided that the 
pensions of all widows, minor children and dependent rela- 
tives already on the pension rolls, or who might thereafter 
be placed upon the pension rolls, should be increased from 
eight to twelve dollars per month. 1 Nothing in the act was 
to affect the existing allowance of two dollars per month for 
each child under the age of sixteen years. It was further 
provided that the law should apply only to widows who 
were married to the deceased soldier or sailor prior to its 
passage, and to those who might thereafter marry prior to, or 
during the service of the soldier or sailor. Claim agents 
were not to be recognized in the adjudication of claims 
under the act. This increase of forty-eight dollars a year 
affected some 95,000 cases on the rolls, besides claims 
allowed after the passage of the act. 

In a pension appropriation act of June 7, 1888, the follow- 
ing provision was included : " That all pensions which have 
been, or which may hereafter be, granted under the general 
laws regulating pensions to widows in consequence of death 
occurring from a cause which originated in the service since 
the fourth day of March, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, 
shall commence from the date of death of the husband." 2 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xxiy, 5. * Ibid., xxv, 173. 


This was a repeal of the limitation on the operation of the 
Arrears Act in so far as widows were concerned, making 
that act apply to them indefinitely. It involved large pay- 
ments of arrears in cases already on the rolls, as well as in 
cases thereafter taken up. 

The thoroughly harmful character of this law is set forth 
at length in the report of Commissioner of Pensions Evans 
for 1 899.* It enables widows, who have failed to apply for 
a pension during widowhood and afterwards re-married, to 
receive in a lump sum pension for the full period of widow- 
hood. This amount is frequently used for the benefit of the 
husband, who has had no connection whatever with the 
United States military service. 

In his report for 1898, Commissioner Evans illustrates the 
operation of the act in the case of the widow of a captain of 
volunteer infantry. The Commissioner says : 

"In 1871 this captain died. He was not a pensioner, and never 
had filed a claim for pension. His widow remained a widow until 
March 30, 1887, when she re-married, having filed no claim, and, 
having re-married, had no pensionable status. In 1893, five years 
after the act of June 7, 1 888, had passed, six years after her re-mar- 
riage, and twenty-two years after the death of her soldier husband, 
she files her claim for pension as a widow, from the date of the 
death of her soldier husband, in 1871, to the date of her re-marriage 
in 1887 sixteen years and gets nearly $4,000, practically for the 
use and benefit of the second husband." 

The first payments of several thousand dollars afford in- 
centive for unscrupulous persons to perpetrate frauds upon 
the Government. Commissioner Evans says : 

" The records of national cemeteries have been brought into use 
for the purpose of determining the names and service of those 
buried there. Women are then hunted up who are induced to exe- 
cute applications for pension on account of the service and death 

1 See pages 21 and 22 in pamphlet report. 

2 2 5 1 ARREARS ACT TO 1890 ! 07 

of these soldiers. These women become pliant tools in the hands 
of the operators. A prima facie case is made out by means of 
"stock witnesses," and the originator of the fraud pockets the 
amount of the first payment, leaving the fraudulent claimant to reap 
the benefit of the future payments. Great difficulty is often exper- 
ienced by this Bureau in disproving a marriage or marriage relations 
alleged to have occurred thirty or forty years ago." 

This law, like the original Arrears Act, puts a premium 
on crime. Under the existing ex parte system of adjudica- 
tion, the Government has no adequate means of detecting 
fraud. The way is open for perjury and forgery, and thou- 
sands of dollars are put within reach of the successful crimi- 
nal. Occasionally the crime is detected, and the Govern- 
ment is shown to have lost large sums of money. But in 
many other cases fraud goes undetected, and the Treasury 
is looted. 



TO 1899. 

THE passage of the Arrears Act, instead of satisfying the 
pension attorneys and claimants, resulted in a demand for 
further legislation. Adapting to his purpose a phrase from 
classical English, one of the speakers in the Congressional 
debates remarked that " this appetite for pensions doth in- 
crease by what it feeds on." The voting strength of the 
veterans of the Civil War was so great that both political 
parties feared to oppose pension measures. 

President Cleveland, in his annual message of 1886, said: 

"Every patriotic heart responds to a tender consideration for 
those who, having served their country long and well, are reduced 
to destitution and dependence, not as an incident of their service, 
but with advancing age or through sickness or misfortune. We are 
all tempted by the contemplation of such a condition to supply relief, 
and are often impatient of the limitations of public duty. Yielding 
to no one in the desire to indulge this feeling of consideration, I 
cannot rid myself of the conviction that if these ex-soldiers are to be 
relieved, they and their cause are entitled to the benefit of an enact- 
ment under which relief may be claimed as a right, and that such 
relief should be granted under the sanction of law, not in evasion of 
it ; nor should such worthy objects of care, all equally entitled, be 
remitted to the unequal operation of sympathy, or the tender mercies 
of social and political influence with their unjust discriminations." 

This declaration was taken in Congress to commit the 
President to the approval of a limited service pension bill 
i 08 [326 



for the veterans of the Civil War. Accordingly, the so-called 
Dependent Pension Bill was passed, which granted a pension 
of twelve dollars per month to all persons who had served 
three months in any war in which the United States had 
been engaged, had been honorably discharged, and were 
" suffering from mental or physical disability, not the result 
of their own vicious habits or gross carelessness, which " in- 
capacitated " them for the performance of labor in such a 
degree as to render them unable to earn a support," such 
persons being dependent upon their daily labor for support. 
The cost of this measure was estimated in the House at less 
than $6,000,000 per annum, which was ridiculously small 
and based more on surmise than anything else. 

President Cleveland performed a public service by vetoing 
the bill. 1 He called attention to the fact that it was the first 
law passed by Congress granting pensions to the soldiers and 
sailors of the Civil War upon the ground of service and 
present disability alone, and in the absence of any injuries 
received in the military service. The language of the law 
he thought uncertain, liable to conflicting constructions, and 
subject to unjust and mischievous application. The law failed 
to provide for any grading of the pension, and President 
Cleveland argued that a lack, in any degree, of ability to earn 
a support would under its terms entitle an applicant to re- 
ceive the full twelve dollars per month. This would make 
the cost of the act very many times what had been estimated. 

The veto message is so valuable as to justify an extended 
quotation. After setting forth his interpretation of the meas- 
ure, the President said : 

" Believing this to be the proper interpretation of the bill, I can- 
not but remember that the soldiers of our Civil War, in their pay and 
bounty, received such compensation for military service as has never 
been received by soldiers before, since mankind first went to war ; 

1 House Ex. Doc., 49th Cong., ad Sess., no. 158. 



that never before, on behalf of any soldiery, have so many and such 
generous laws been passed to relieve against the incidents of war ; 
that statutes have been passed giving them a preference in all public 
employments ; that the really needy and homeless Union soldiers of 
the Rebellion have been, to a large extent, provided for at soldiers' 
homes, instituted and supported by the Government, where they are 
maintained together, free from the sense of degradation which at- 
taches to the usual support of charity ; and that never before in the 
history of the country has it been proposed to render Government 
aid towards the support of any of its soldiers based alone upon a 
military service so recent, and where age and circumstances ap- 
peared so little to demand such aid. 

" Hitherto such relief has been granted to surviving soldiers few 
in number, venerable in age, after a long lapse of time since their 
military service, and as a parting benefaction tendered by a grateful 

" I cannot believe that the vast, peaceful army of Union soldiers, 
who, having contentedly resumed their places in the ordinary avoca- 
tions of life, cherish as sacred the memory of patriotic service, or who, 
having been disabled by the casualties of war, justly regard the pres- 
ent pension roll, on which appear their names, as a roll of honor, de- 
sire at this time and in the present exigency, to be confounded with 
those who, through such a bill as this, are willing to be objects of 
simple charity and to gain a place upon the pension roll through 
alleged dependence. 

" Recent personal observation and experience constrain me to re- 
fer to another result which will inevitably follow the passage of this 
bill. It is sad, but nevertheless true, that already in the matter of 
procuring pensions there exists a widespread disregard of truth and 
good faith stimulated by those who as agents undertake to establish 
claims for pensions, heedlessly entered upon by the expectant bene- 
ficiary, and encouraged or at least not condemned by those unwill- 
ing to obstruct a neighbor's plans. 

" In the execution of this proposed law under any interpretation, 
a wide field of inquiry would be opened for the establishment of 
facts largely within the knowledge of the claimants alone ; and there 
can be no doubt that the race after the pensions offered by this bill, 

329] DEPENDENT ACT TO 1899 1 1 1 

would not only stimulate weakness and pretended incapacity for 
labor, but put a further premium on dishonesty and mendacity." 

Referring to the underestimates of the costs of the bill, 
the President said : 

" If none should be pensioned under this bill except those utterly 
unable to work, I am satisfied that the cost stated in the estimate re- 
ferred to would be many times multiplied, and with a constant in- 
crease from year to year ; and, if those partially unable to earn their 
support should be admitted to the privileges of this bill, the proba- 
ble increase of expense would be almost appalling." 

In reconciling his attitude towards the proposed law with 
the expression of opinion previously quoted from his annual 
message, he continued : 

"I do not think that the objects, the conditions and the limita- 
tions thus suggested are contained in the bill under consideration. 

" I adhere to the sentiments thus heretofore expressed. But the 
evil threatened by this bill is in my opinion such, that, charged with 
a great responsibility in behalf of the people, I cannot do otherwise 
than to bring to the consideration of this measure my best efforts of 
thought and judgment, and preform my constitutional duty in 
relation thereto, regardless of all consequences, except such as 
appear to me to be related to the best and highest interests of the 

This courageous veto evoked a storm of criticism from 
those interested in the passage of the Dependent Pension 
Bill. Petitions were received from Grand Army of the Re- 
public posts, other organizations and citizens all over the 
country asking for the passage of the measure over the 
President's veto. In Congress, he was freely charged with 
inconsistency by speakers from both parties. Mr. McKinley 
of Ohio was among those who spoke in favor of passing the 
bill over the veto. The Pension Committee of the House, 
where the measure originated, unanimously recommended 


such action. 1 On the vote, the yeas numbered 175 and the 
nays 125. Thus the bill failed, two- thirds not supporting 

There was no cessation of the agitation for service pen- 
sions, and the attitude of the political parties on this ques- 
tion had an important influence upon the Presidential cam- 
paign of 1888. The Republican national platform adopted 
at Chicago on June 21, 1888, said: 

"The gratitude of the nation to the defenders of the Union can 
not be measured by laws. The legislation of Congress should con- 
form to the pledge made by a loyal people, and be so enlarged and 
extended as to provide against the possibility that any man who hon- 
orably wore the Federal uniform should become an inmate of an 
almshouse or dependent upon private charity. In the presence of 
an overflowing Treasury, it would be a public scandal to do less for 
those whose valorous service preserved the Government. We de- 
nounce the hostile spirit shown by President Cleveland in his numer- 
ous vetoes of measures for pension relief, and the action of the 
Democratic House of Representatives in refusing even a considera- 
tion of general pension legislation." 

At the twenty-second national encampment of the Grand 
Army of the Republic at Columbus, Ohio, September, 1888, 
the following resolutions were passed: 2 

" i. Resolved, That it is the sense of this encampment that the 
time has come when the soldiers and sailors of the war for the pre- 
servation of the Union should receive the substantial and merited 
recognition of the Government by granting them service pensions in 
accordance with established usage ; and, further 

2. Resolved, That this encampment favors the presentation of a 
bill to Congress which will give to every soldier, sailor and marine 
who served in the army or navy of the United States between 

1 Congressional Record, xviii, Part ii, 1970-1973. For debates on this bill, see 
the heading " pensions" in the index to this volume. 

* Journal of the National Encampment of G. A. ., 1888, 190. 

3 3 1 ] DEPENDENT A CT TO 1899 1 1 3 

April, 1 86 1, and July, 1865, f r tne period of sixty days or more, 
a service pension of eight dollars per month, and to all who served 
a period exceeding eight hundred days, an additional amount of 
one cent per day for each day's service exceeding that period." 

In the fall campaign of 1888, the pension question was 
very influential in determining the result in the doubtful 
State of Indiana, and consequently in the contest for the 
Presidency. The Republican candidate for Governor of In- 
diana was General A. P. Hovey, President of the Service 
Pension Association of the United States. He was elected, 
and the State was carried for Harrison. 

The new Republican administration was soon called upon 
to redeem its pledges to the ex-soldiers. On February 7, 
1890, Mr. McKinley of Ohio presented to the House of 
Representatives an appeal of A. P. Hovey, president of the 
Service Pension Association of the United States, and the 
resolutions of the Grand Army posts of forty States and four 
Territories, for the passage of a service pension bill, as re- 
commended by the Grand Army of the Republic at Columbus 
in 1888 and at Milwaukee in 1889.* Several bills were in- 
troduced with the object of gratifying the demand for pen- 
sions. The Republican leaders wished to satisfy the ex- 
soldiers without going to the extreme of general service 
pension legislation to which the party was really committed. 
Democrats charged the Republicans with breach of faith, and 
also taunted them with their refusal to remove the limitation 
on arrears as promised in the platform of 1884. The debates 
were conducted very largely with reference to their effect on 
the soldier vote. Each party attempted to pose as the 
special friend of the soldier. 

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed 
bills, that of the Senate resembling the Dependent Pension 

1 Congressional Record, 5istCong., 1st Sess., 1061-1066. 


Bill which had been vetoed by President Cleveland. 1 Con- 
ference committees from' the Houses finally agreed upon a 
measure, more nearly resembling the Senate bill, which was 
passed and received the approval of President Harrison on 
June 27, 1 890.* Like the former measure which failed, this 
has been known as the Dependent Pension Law. The cost 
of the law, as it passed, was estimated in the House at not 
to exceed $35,000,000 per annum, and, in the Senate, at not 
to exceed $41,000,000 per annum. Senator Gorman, who 
opposed the bill, estimated that its annual cost would be 
from $56,000,000 to $79,000,000. 

The first section of the act of June 27, 1890, is not con- 
nected with the principal object of the law. It provides that 
in the presentation of the pension claims of dependent par- 
ents, where the deceased soldier has left no widow or minor 
children, it shall be necessary only to show by competent 
and sufficient evidence that the parent or parents are with- 
out other present means of support than their own manual 
labor or the contribution of others not legally bound for 
their support. 

Section 2 provides : 

" That all persons who served ninety days or more in the military 
or naval service of the United States during the late war of the re- 
bellion and who have been honorably discharged therefrom, and who 
are now or who may hereafter be suffering from a mental or physical 
disability of a permanent character, not the result of their own vicious 
habits, which incapacitates them from the performance of manual 
labor in such a degree as to render them unable to earn a support, 
shall, upon making due proof of the fact according to such rules and 
regulations as the Secretary of the Interior may provide, be placed 
upon the list of invalid pensioners of the United States, and be en- 
titled to receive a pension not exceeding twelve dollars per month, and 
not less than six dollars per month, proportioned to the degree of 

1 House Bill, 8297, and Senate BUI, 389. U. S. Statutes at Large. 

333] DEPENDENT ACT TO 1899 n$ 

inability to earn a support ; and such pension shall commence from 
the date of the filing of the application in the Pension Office after 
the passage of this act, upon proof that the disability then existed, 
and shall continue during the existence of the same." 

Persons pensioned under the general laws are permitted to 
apply under this act, and pensioners under this act may apply 
under the general laws. But no person may receive more 
than one pension for the same period. 

Widows of those who served ninety days during the Civil 
War and were honorably discharged, are, under the act of 
1890, granted pensions at the rate of eight dollars per 
month without proving the soldier's death to be the result of 
his army service. As under the general law, an additional 
allowance of two dollars per month is made for each child 
of the deceased soldier under the age of sixteen years. The 
widow, to be pensioned, must have married the soldier prior 
to the passage of the act and must be dependent upon her 
daily labor for support. She loses the pension if she re- 
marries. In case of her death or remarriage, the pension is 
paid to any surviving children of the soldier until they reach 
the age of sixteen. When a minor child is insane, idiotic or 
otherwise permanently helpless, the pension continues dur- 
ing life or during the period of disability. Attorney's fees 
under the law are limited to ten dollars. 

This act of June 27, 1890, is the most important pension 
law ever enacted. Up to June 30, 1899, it had cost the 
country about $500,000,000, and over sixty million dollars 
is being paid out annually. It is a limited service pension 
bill. In the case of soldiers, the requirement is three 
months' service and a certain degree of permanent disability, 
not the result of vicious habits. Widows' pensions are based 
upon the above length of service by their husbands and their 
own dependence upon daily labor for support. Thus, we 
have, in fact, two independent systems of pension legislation, 


that under the general invalid pension law and that under 
the act of 1890.* Under the former, 333,192 invalids and 
107,149 widows are pensioned; under the latter, 420,912 in- 
valids and 130,266 widows. It seems surprising that under 
this one act 110,000 more persons should be pensioned than 
under all other laws taken together. 

The rates allowed by the general law are higher than 
those allowed by the act of 1890. As a consequence, it has 
been the general practice of applicants to file two claims, 
one under each system of law. The pension under the act 
of 1890 is more easily obtained, but surrendered if sufficient 
proof can be brought forward to secure the higher rate al- 
lowed by the general law. The latter requires proof that 
disability or death resulted directly from causes incurred in 
the military service. 

In the execution of the act of 1890, there has never been 
any inquiry into the capacity of the claimant to earn a sup- 
\ port. The rich have been pensioned alike with the poor. 
All that has been required of the claimant is proof that he 
served ninety days in the Union army, and adequate medical 
evidence that he has a physical or mental disability that dis- 
qualifies him in whole or in part for earning a support by 
manual labor. No matter what may be the cause of the dis- 
ability, provided that it is not the result of the claimant's 
vicious habits. Let us illustrate. Suppose a business man, 
lawyer or physician to suffer an injury in a railroad accident, 
necessitating the amputation of a foot. If he served ninety 
days in the Civil War, he will be allowed upon application a 
pension of twelve dollars per month for life. In case of an 
injury of less severity, the rate might be anywhere from six 
to twelve dollars. Is a law which grants pensions under 

1 For comparison of the two systems, see Report of the Commissioner of Pen- 
sions for 1899, 33. 

335] DEPENDENT A CT TO i8gg \ \ y 

such circumstances sound in principle? The individual in 
the illustration may be enjoying a large income, his earning 
ability may be but temporarily impaired, his injury has no 
connection whatever with military service, and, in fact, he 
may never have seen active service. Nevertheless, he is 
pensioned for life at the expense of the taxpayers of the 
country. And this is not an extreme case. Our supposed 
claimant has a clear legal title to a pension, which he can 
prove without departing in the least from strict honesty of 
statement. But, in that large class of cases where disability 
is not physically apparent, there is abundant reason to be- ^ 
lieve that large numbers of persons, seemingly in normal < 
health, have discovered in themselves ailments which would f 
have passed unnoticed but for the pension laws. 

The act of 1890 seems to the writer a bad law. It is loose 
in expression, unsound in principle, and often absurd in ap- 
plication. It lays an extravagant and unjust burden upon 
taxpayers to insure a privileged class against serious acci- 
dent or disability. It stimulates dishonesty and dependence, 
fails to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserv- 
ing, and prevents the pension list from being, as it should be, 
a roll of honor. This act was passed at a time when there 
was a large annual surplus in the Treasury. It was argued 
that the payment of more pensions to ex- soldiers would be 
a proper use of this surplus. The additional expenditure 
involved in the execution of this law has, however, come to 
be one of the causes of the deficit of recent years. Our ex- 
travagant pension expenditures are beginning to attract pub- 
lic attention and to arouse protest. The cost of the law of 
1890 is shown in the following table : T 

1 Tablet are compiled from Reports of the Commissioner of Pensions. 





Army Pensions. 

Navy Pensions. 



Widows and 


Widows and 










375.590,052.23| 102,825,698.34 




Since the passage of the act of 1890, there has been an 
almost constant decrease in the number of claims allowed 
under the general law. A very large proportion of all claims 
now admitted comes under the law of 1890. This is shown 
in the following table : 


Year ending 
June 30. 

Old Wars and 
Army Nurses.' 

General Law. 

Act of 
June 27, 1890. 

Total Original 
Claims Allowed. 

i Son 

i c84 

6c OCT. 







I OI4 








3,80 c 




T QQ c 

j 701 


















I, OI7* 




1 Includes Mexican War and War of 1812 pensions, and, since 1893, Indian War pension*, and 
pensions to army nurses. 

9 Includes 303 pensions granted on account of the War with Spain. 

337J DEPENDENT ACT TO 1899 x 19 

By the act of August 5, 1892, all women employed by the 
Surgeon-General of the army as nurses during the Civil War 
for a period of six months or more, and who were honorably 
relieved from such service, are granted a pension of twelve 
dollars a month, provided they are unable to earn a support. 1 
At present there are about 650 of these nurses on the roll. 

The Supreme Court of the United States has held that no 
pensioner can claim a vested legal right to his pension, but 
that pensions are the bounties of the Government, which 
Congress has the right to give or recall, increase or dimin- 
ish, at its discretion. 2 The Pension Bureau has also exer- 
cised the power of revising or reconsidering its decisions for 
the correction of error or illegality. In the act of December 
21, 1893, Congress modified the prevailing practice by de- 
claring a pension a vested right in the grantee to the extent 
that payment thereof may not be suspended or withheld 
without notice to the pensioner of not less than thirty days. 
Such notice must contain a full statement of any charges or 
allegations upon which it is sought to modify or change the 
decision granting the pension, and the Commissioner must 
act only after hearing all the evidence presented. This pro- 
vision has facilitated frauds upon the Pension Bureau in some 
cases where the fraud was discovered just after a certificate 
carrying a large amount of arrears had been issued. Com- 
missioner Lochren cites, in his report for 1894, a case where 
the Government lost $2,200 in this manner, and says that 
numerous cases of the same kind occur in the practice of 
the Bureau. 

A proviso in the pension appropriation act of March 2, 
1895, increased to six dollars per month all invalid pensions 
below that rate, and provided that thereafter, whenever any 
applicant for pension would be entitled, under the then ex- 
isting rates, to less than six dollars for one or for several 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xxvii, 348. * 107 U. S. Reports, 64, 68. 


combined disabilities, he should receive not less than six 
dollars per month. 1 This is now the minimum invalid rate 

There was also included in the pension appropriation act 
of March 6, 1896, the following noteworthy clause: 2 

"That whenever a claim for pension under the act of June 27, 
1890, has been, or shall hereafter be, rejected, suspended or dis- 
missed, and a new application shall have been, or shall hereafter be, 
filed, and a pension has been, or shall hereafter be, allowed in such 
claim, such pension shall date from the time of filing the first ap- 
plication, provided the evidence in the case shall show a pensionable 
disability to have existed, or to exist, at the time of filing such first 
application, anything in any law or ruling of the Department to the 
contrary notwithstanding." 

This provision opened the way for applications for arrears 
on the part of those whose original claims had failed. Ap- 
plications were renewed and fortified with additional evi- 
dence in the hope of securing a large first payment. It is 
gratifying to note that there has been a large percentage of 
rejections of claims under this clause. 

The last important general law which we shall note is that 
of March 3, 1899.3 This provides that a pensioner who has 
deserted his wife, or children under sixteen years of age, for 
a period of over six months, or who is an inmate of a Sol- 
diers' Home, must give up one-half of his pension to his 
wife, she being a woman of good moral character and in 
necessitous circumstances, or to the guardian of his child or 
children. In this way the Pension Bureau is enabled to 
afford relief in many worthy cases upon appeal from the 
wives and children concerned. 

The same act also provides that, in the future, no pension 
shall be granted to a widow under the laws of the United 

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, xxviii, 704. * Ibid., xxix, 45. * Ibid., xxx, 1379. 

339] DEPENDENT ACT TO 1899 121 

States unless the marriage of the widow to the soldier on ac- 
count of whose service the pension is asked, was duly and 
legally contracted prior to the passage of the act, or unless 
she shall have lived and cohabited with the soldier continu- 
ously from the date of the marriage until the date of his 
death, or unless the marriage shall take place hereafter and 
prior to or during the military service of the soldier on ac- 
count of whose service pension is claimed. This proviso 
does not apply to the widows of soldiers who served in the 
War with Spain. It is intended to stop the common abuse 
found in the marriage of young women to aged soldiers for ' 
the sake of acquiring a pensionable status. 

So liberal and comprehensive is our system of general 
pension laws that no additional legislation has been necessary 
on account of the war with Spain. Soldiers of that war are 
entitled to pensions for disabilities of a permanent character, 
resulting from their military service, at the same rates as al- 
lowed soldiers of the Civil War. Existing legislation like- 
wise provides for the widows and dependent relatives of those 
who died in service in the war with Spain or as the result 
of injuries received or disease contracted in that war. Except 
as to dependent parents, the act of June 27, 1890, is appli- 
cable only to the soldiers of the Civil War. Up to June 30, 
1899, there had been filed in the Pension Bureau 17,560 
claims on account of the war with Spain, 303 of which had 
been allowed. The filing of such claims is proceeding 
rapidly, and the number received from some regiments 
which saw no active service is surprisingly large. 

Special Pension Legislation 

In closing this account of general pension legislation, it 
seems desirable to call attention briefly to the great develop- 
ment of special pension legislation since the Civil War. v 
Previous to that war, few special acts were passed, but since 




its close their number has become great, as is shown by the 
following table : x 

MARCH 4, 1899. 





Thirty-seventh (1861-63) . . . 
Thirty-eighth (1863 60 


Forty-eighth (1883-85) 
Forty-ninth (1885 87) 


Thirty-ninth (1865 67). ... 

1 18 

Fiftieth (1887 89) 

1 OI5 

Fortieth (1867-69) 

1 j 


Fifty-first (1889 91) 


Forty-first (1869 71) 



Fifty-second (189193) .... 


Forty-second ( 1871 73) .... 



Forty-third (1877 75) 


Plfty- fourth (1895-97) 


Forty- fourth ( 1 87577) 


Fifty- fifth (1897 99) 


Forty-fifth (1877 79) 

2 -JQ 

Forty-sixth (1870 8O 



6 7QI 

Forty-seventh (1881-83) 



N \ These special acts are usually passed to allow claims which 
have been rejected by the Pension Bureau, often because 
they are absolutely without merit. Some of the claims are 
meritorious, but do not come technically within the provi- 
sions of the general law. It is the practice of both Houses 
of Congress to set aside portions of certain days for the con- 
sideration of pension bills. At those sessions, special laws 
are put through the form of passage with remarkable speed, 
and commonly in the absence of a quorum. Very few mem- 
bers vote or give any attention to the bills, which are en- 
acted by common consent. Occasionally, some member 
does insist upon the presence of a quorum. This reckless 
method of doing business, originating at a time when the 
surplus in%ie Treasury seemed capable of satisfying every 
demand for pensions, has resulted in the allowance of many 
unworthy claims. 

1 CompUed from Reports of the Commissioner of Pensions for 1898 and 1899. 

34 1 ] DEPENDENT ACT TO 1899 123 

President Cleveland endeavored to put a stop to the abuse 
of special acts by the use of his veto power. 1 In his first v 
term, he vetoed 228 pension bills. Grant was the only other 
President who had used the veto for this purpose, he having 
vetoed five unimportant pension measures. Among the 
bills which Cleveland vetoed was the Dependent Pension 
Bill, which we have already discussed. His action was very 
severely criticised in Congress and throughout the country, 
and it was said by his opponents to be an improper use of 
the veto power. It had the desirable result of bringing the 
special act abuse prominently before the people and thereby 
checking the recklessness of Congress. The President ve- 
toed only those measures which he considered improper after 
a careful examination into the facts had been made by the 
Pension Bureau. In a number of cases, he was able to show 
that Congress had been imposed upon by deserters, by those 
whose injuries had not been received in the line of duty, and 
by persons whose claims were tainted with fraud. His reso- 
lute stand was instrumental in bringing about more careful 
methods in the committees of Congress. Claims are not / 
now considered by Congress until they have been first sub- 
mitted to the Bureau. 

Congress is not the proper place for the settlement of 
private pension claims. The pressure of general business is 
too great. There is no time for the detailed discussion of 
such matters on the floor of either House, and the decision 
of committees must necessarily be accepted without question 
in order that business may be done. These committees are 
not so well fitted to investigate the merit of the claims as the 
Pension Bureau. It would be an improvement upon present 
methods if Congress should pass special bills only upon re- 

an excellent discussion of Cleveland's pension vetoes, see Mason, The 
Veto Power, 87-93. 


commendation from the Bureau. Under our present liberal 
system, it is probable that there are but few meritorious 
claims not within the scope of the laws. The Pension Bu- 
reau can not be accused of bias against claimants, and could 
do more than is now done to place proper safeguards upon 
the Treasury. 


/. The Trend of Pension Legislation 

IN this country, pension legislation has tended constantly 
toward increased liberality. Our earliest laws were disabil- 
ity provisions, carefully restricted in their operation and 
meager in their allowances. The scope of these laws was 
soon broadened, provision was made for widows and 
orphans, and rates were increased. In 1818, thirty-five 
years after the termination of the Revolutionary War, ser- 
vice pensions were granted to the indigent soldiers of that 
war, despite warnings in Congress that a precedent was 
being created which posterity would regret. We have read 
of the resulting scandals and fraud. Fourteen years later, a 
surplus in the Treasury, due to a high tariff on imports, 
opened the way for a further grant to the survivors of the 
Revolutionary War. The act of 1832,3 pure service pen- 
sion law, was passed. Again were there surprising disclos- 
ures of fraud. The precedent for service pensions, however, 
was strengthened. 

The intervention of the Civil War troubles prevented the 
granting of service pensions to the survivors of the War of 
1812 at as early a date as would otherwise have been prob- 
able. But in 1871, precedent was appealed to and a service 
pension bill passed for their benefit. This was supplemented 
by the extremely liberal act of 1878. The effects of these 
two measures have been presented in a previous chapter, 
but both effects and measures were overshadowed by Civil 
343J I2 5 


War legislation. In 1887, a limited service pension law was 
passed for the survivors of the Mexican War, and, in 1892, a 
pure service pension law for the soldiers of sundry Indian 

\At the beginning of the Civil War, the act of 1862 was 
passed, making broader provisions for invalids, widows and 
dependent relatives than had before been known in this 
country. No sooner had the war ended than Congress 
began passing more and more liberal provisions for invalids 
and dependent relatives, and establishing higher rates for the 
severer disabilities. Then came the Arrears Act with an 
outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars. This was followed 
by an agitation for service pensions. But to pay service 
pensions without limitation to the vast armies of volunteers 
who were enlisted in the Civil War was so stupendous an 
undertaking that Congress dared not go to the full length of 
the proposals urged upon its members. The act of 1890 
was the costly compromise. The present enterprises of the 
Government have of late afforded full use for all the funds in 
the Treasury, but if it shall be our fortune to have another 
period of Treasury surplus, we may expect a demand for 
pure service pensions for all survivors of the Civil War. 

2. Our Present System of Pension Laws 

The pension legislation on the statute books with refer- 
ence to the wars prior to 1861 is now of slight importance. 
There is great need of a thorough revision and codification 
of the numerous laws passed with reference to service sub- 
sequent to March 4, 1861, and of the confused mass of rul- 
ings and decisions thereunder. These laws comprise in reality 
; two systems, that under the so-called general law and that 
under the act of June 27, 1890. Under the former, there are 
fewer pensioners, but this great body of legislation, dealing 
with disability and death resulting from service, applies in- 


definitely to the future as well as to the past. It includes 
within its scope the war with Spain, the war in the Philip- 
pines and such other wars as may be in store for us. 
Among its beneficiaries are disabled soldiers, widows, or- 
phan children, dependent fathers and mothers, and orphan 
brothers and sisters. For the severer disabilities, it allows 
rates of pension reaching as high as one hundred dollars a 
month for the loss of both hands. No other body of laws 
has ever provided so generously for those disabled in military 
service and for the relatives of those whose death was due to 
such service. 

The law of June 27, 1890, which pensions the soldiers of 
the Civil War and their widows in cases where disabilities 
and death are not due to military service, embraces within 
its scope more pensioners than are enrolled under all our 
other laws taken together. A counterpart of this act of 
1890 cannot be found in the legislation of any nation, and, 
indeed, no measure nearly resembling it. For reasons 
already discussed at length, it seems to the writer to be the 
most vulnerable point in our pension system. 

j. Causes and Evils of Unwise Legislation 

The existence of a large surplus in the Treasury has been, 
in the history of this country, a frequent temptation to ex- 
travagant and mischievous pension legislation. This was 
seen in the case of the Revolutionary pension act of 1832, 
and has been more strikingly illustrated in the course of 
legislation since the Civil War. After the country recovered 
from the abnormal conditions incident to that great conflict, 
a high protective tariff caused the accumulation in the 
Treasury of millions of money, not needed to meet the ordi- 
nary expenses of Government. This surplus opened the way 
for unnecessary and harmful expenditures. 

One of the most obvious ways to put these millions in cir- 


culation among the people was to pay them out in the form 
of military pensions. Proposals to make such payments 
were, in general, well received, because of the prevailing 
good-will toward the citizen soldiers who had fought for the 
preservation of the Union. At first, steps were taken to 
broaden the provisions and increase the benefits of the laws 
granting pensions to invalids, widows and dependent rela- 
tives. Then, when applications and expenditures for pen- 
sions began to decrease, the pension attorneys and claim 
agents sought means to continue their business at the ex- 
pense of the people of the United States. Under pretense 
of a demand for just and honorable treatment of the dis- 
abled soldiers, they urged the passage of the Arrears Act. 
Among the great mass of the soldiers, there was little real 
sentiment for such a measure. This being the case, the 
claim agents, by means of a cunningly conducted agitation, 
proceeded to stir up the needed support. They flooded the 
country with artfully worded appeals, calculated to persuade 
the honest veteran that he had a just claim and to arouse 
the cupidity of his less honest comrade. The movement 
was successful, and we have seen what it cost the country. 

Notwithstanding the passage of the Arrears Act, the in- 
come of the Government continued to be greatly in excess 
of its expenditures. The ex-soldiers, organized in the 
Grand Army of the Republic, began systematic efforts to 
obtain from Congress additional pension legislation. In 
these efforts, they were largely under the guidance of pen- 
sion attorneys among their number. The organized soldier 
vote became of such political importance as to command the 
consideration of both great parties and to become one of the 
determining factors in a Presidential campaign. Demands 
were made that the surplus should be used in paying ser- 
vice pensions on account of the Civil War. Both parties in 
Congress feared to antagonize the Grand Army, but also 


feared to enact the extreme measures which were proposed. 
The act of June 27, 1890, was, in a sense, a compromise, 
though we can scarcely call it a happy one. Through their 
organization, the soldiers secured many other measures of 
importance, notably the increase act of 1886, the repeal of 
the limitation in the Arrears Act, so far as concerns widows' 


pensions, and the establishment of the minimum invalid rate 
of six dollars per month. 

The evils resulting from our pension system have been 
many. Unwise laws have lowered the standards of morality 
and patriotism held by the volunteer soldiers. Frauds of all 
sorts have been perpetrated in the preparation of evidence 
and prosecution of claims. In a great number of cases, 
while there has not been conscious fraud, claimants have 
allowed themselves to be persuaded of the existence of dis- 
abilities which never would have been discovered except at 
the suggestion of pension attorneys. Others, in independent 
or affluent circumstances, have been willing to receive pay- 
ments on account of disabilities in no way connected with 
military service. Youth has been joined in wedlock to old 
age for the sake of the widow's allowance. In the eager 
rush for pensions, the finer feelings of veterans have been 
blunted and the attempt has been made to secure a monetary 
equivalent for the performance of patriotic duty. The in- 
vestigator must, at times, turn from the record in disgust. 
A former soldier, who is a present officer of the Pension 
Bureau, writes: 1 

" The rapid increase in the number of widows' pensions tells the 
story of the passing of the volunteer. It must be left to history to 
record his virtues. To this generation he has been so persistent in 
asserting his rights, and so insistent upon recognition, so easily 
gulled by self-seeking politicians, and misrepresented. by such a host 
of blatant orators, that his detractors may be pardoned for regarding 
him as a greedy cormorant." 

1 G. C. Kniffin, The Independent, November 10, 1898, 1333. 


Much evidence of the financial evils of our pension system 
has been presented in preceding chapters. Unjust burdens 
-/have been placed upon the taxpayers of the country to carry 
\ into effect the lavish grants made by Congress. With the 
assumption by the government of the United States of new 
responsibilities in this and other continents, the weight of 
national taxation is being felt more than in former years. 
We have not of late been troubled with the problem of the 
surplus. Pension expenditures are becoming a matter of 
public concern. The prospect of an enlarged military estab- 
lishment has intensified interest in the question. It seems 
probable, too, that, with the decrease in the voting strength 
of the Grand Army, proposals of pension legislation may be 
examined in Congress with respect less to party advantage 
than to public duty. 

^. A Proper System of Laws 

Laws granting pensions for military service, without re- 
gard to any proof of the existence of disability contracted in 
that service, have proved, throughout our history, extremely 
costly and liable to a multitude of abuses. Almost invari- 
ably, the framers of such legislation have seriously underesti- 
mated the expenditure involved in its execution. The laws 
have required but short periods of service, have been loosely 
drawn, and have failed to place ordinary safegards upon the 
Treasury. Where the service pensions have been granted 
long after the close of the wars concerned and to persons 
who have reached old age, there has not been so great a 
cause for objections as to measures which have granted al- 
lowances to those who were independent and actively en- 
gaged in the affairs of life. But service pension laws, as the 
term is used in the United States, seem, in any case, to be 
unwise. They have only been made possible through a 
revenue system which, during long periods of years, has 


kept a large surplus in the hands of the Government. Euro- 
pean nations have provided pensions for soldiers who have , 
completed many years of faithful service in the regular army, 
but no other nation has had service laws at all comparable to 
those enacted on behalf of the volunteer armies of the 
United States. 

While service pension laws are subject to grave objec- 
tions, a properly guarded invalid pension system is in ac- 
cordance with good public policy. Most civilized nations 
have recognized this fact and have provided, in some way, 
for wounded or disabled soldiers. In enlisting volunteers for 
our wars, it has been usual to make a promise of invalid 
pension provisions for the benefit of the troops enlisted. So 
long as war continues to be the means of settling disputes 
between nations, the duty of providing for those who are 
disabled in military service will be enforced upon govern- 
ments by public opinion. If, as in the case of the United 
States, the government is able to provide liberally for inva- 
lids, it seems but right that it should do so. There will be 
few, if any, who will oppose the claim for relief made by the 
soldier who has received actual disability in the line of duty. 

Properly restricted pensions to widows, orphans and de- 
pendent relatives seem also to merit general approval. 
There will be great difference of opinion as to what is a 
proper restriction in the case of widows' pensions. A con- 
servative rule would allow a pension to a widow only when , 
marriage took place prior to or during the soldier's term of / 
service, and when the soldier's death was directly due to in- / 
juries received or disease contracted in the performance of/ 
his military duties. Some greater degree of liberality with 
regard to the date of marriage might, however, prove expel 

All propositions for pension reform made under present 
circumstances must hold in view what is practically attain- 


able rather than theoretical perfection. Radical changes in 
the existing system would be attended with much difficulty 
and might work considerable hardships. Though this essay 
has been devoted primarily to a consideration of legislation, 
enough has been said to show that administrative reforms 
are also urgently needed. We have never had a system of 
adjudication of pension claims which has sufficiently safe- 
guarded the interests of the Government. In this direction, 
there is a fruitful field of investigation. It is earnestly to be 
desired that public interest may be aroused to the import- 
ance of the whole pension question, and that a knowledge of 
the experience of the past may lead to a betterment of leg- 
islation and administration in the future. 



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In the preparation of this monograph, the principal sources of information have 
been the records and public documents of the various departments of the govern- 
ment of the United States. The following have been used : Annals of Congress, 
Congressional Debates, Congressional Globe, Congressional Record, Senate Jour- 
nal, House Journal, Senate Reports of Committees, House Reports of Committees, 
House Executive Documents, Message and Documents, State Papers, Reports of 
the Commissioner of Pensions, Reports of Cases argued and adjudged in the Su- 
preme Court of the United States, United States Statutes at Large, and Statistical 
Abstract of the United States. 

The writer has also examined a large number of newspaper and magazine arti- 
cles, compilations of laws, and other works which have proved of but little value 
for his purpose. In addition to the public documents mentioned above, the fol- 
lowing authorities have been found useful and are cited in the footnotes : 

Acts and Laws of His Majesty's Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence-Planta- 
tions in New- England, in America. Newport, 1745. 

The Acts and Resolves, public and private, of the Province of Massachusetts Bay 
( 1 692-1 780) . 5 vols. Boston, 1 869-86. 

American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive. Folio, 38 vols. 
Washington, 1832-61. 

Archives of Maryland, edited by William Hand Browne. Proceedings of the 
General Assembly (1637-92). Baltimore, 1883-94. 

Benton, Thomas Hart, Abridgment of the Debates of Congress. 15 vols. New 

Boutell, Lewis Henry, The Life of Roger Sherman. Chicago, 1896. 

'Bureau of Pensions, its Officers and their Duties. The Manner in -which the 
Work of Adjudicating Claims is Performed. Washington, 1893. 

Carson, H. L., The Supreme Court of the United States. 

The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution. 5 vols. 
Albany, 1894. 

The Forum. New York, 1893. 

Hening, William Waller, The Statutes at Large, being a Collection of all the 
Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Ytar 1619. 13 
vols. New York, Philadelphia and Richmond, 1819-23. 

The Independent. New York, 1898. 

Journals of the American Congress from 1774 to 1788. 4 vols. Washington, 



Journal oj the 7^wcnty- second Annual Session of the National Encampment, 
Grand Army of the Republic. Minneapolis, 1888. 

Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 4 vols. Philadelphia, 1810. 

Laws of the United States Governing the Granting of Army and Navy Pensions, 
together with the Regulations Relating thereto. Bureau of Pensions. Washington, 
September, 1896; September, 1897; May, 1899. 

McMaster, John Bach, History of the People of the United States from the Revo- 
lution to the Civil War. 4 vols. New York, 1883-95. 

Mason, Edward Campbell, The Veto Power, Its Origin, Development and 
Function in the Government of the United States (1789-1889). Boston, 1891. 

Niles* Weekly Register. Baltimore, 1811-49. 

The Papers of James Madison, edited by Henry D. Gilpin. 3 vols. Mobile, 

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England. 1 1 volumes in 9. 
Boston, 1855-61. 

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New Eng- 
land (1636-1792), edited by John Russell Bartlett. 10 vols. Providence, 

Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New Eng- 
land. 5 vols. in six. Boston, 1853-54. 

Thayer, James Bradley, Cases on Constitutional Law, with Notes. 2 vols. 
Cambridge, 1894-95. 

A Treatise on the Practice of the Pension Bureau. Compiled by order of the 
Commissioner of Pensions. Washington, 1898. 

W T ells, "William Vincent, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams. 3 
vols. Boston, 1865. 

The Writings of George Washington. Collected and edited by Worthington 
Chauncey Ford. 14 vols. New York and London, 1889-93. 

", -' , '^ 


WILLIAM HENRY GLASSON was born at Troy, N. Y., July 
26, 1874. He graduated from the Troy High School in June, 
1892, and, as the result of a competitive examination, won a 
New York State scholarship in Cornell University, which in- 
stitution he entered in the fall of 1892. On the basis of his 
record for the first two years of his course, he was awarded 
a University Scholarship during the junior and senior years. 
In the junior year, he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa 
Society. He graduated from Cornell University in 1896 
with the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy, receiving special 
mention in history and political science. 

Before graduation, he was appointed Fellow in Political 
Economy and Finance in Cornell University for the ensuing 
year. He attended courses and seminaries under Professors 
J. W. Jenks, W. F. Willcox, C. H. Hull and M. C. Tyler. 
For the year 1897-98, he was chosen Fellow in Economics in 
the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under the 
direction of Professors H. R. Seager, L. S. Rowe, J. B. Mc- 
Master, J. F. Johnson and E. P. Cheyney. He was Univer- 
sity Fellow in Administration in Columbia University during 
1898-99, and attended lectures and seminaries under Profes- 
sors F. J. Goodnow, J. W. Burgess and E. R. A. Seligman. 
In the following year, he was Instructor in History and 
Political Science at the George School, George School, Pa. 
This dissertation is his first published research work. 
355] 137 




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